Joe Carter of The Evangelical Outpost has written a fine post called Still in the World: A Pro-Life View of Death and Dying. While discussing his mother's death, he comes to this bottom line:
Until the cancer made her unable to work, my mother had been a hospice nurse. She had been with hundreds of others at the end of their lives and knew what to expect. I, on the other hand, was completely inexperienced. While I had never been afraid of death I had always viewed it with curious detachment. I thought is was an inevitable, unfortunate, but natural process.
I was wrong. Death isn’t natural. Life, given to us by an abundantly generous Creator, is natural. Death is the enemy that separates us from ourselves, from our loved ones, and most importantly, from God. It is such a curse that it required the Son of God himself to remove it so that we might live once again.
There is no dignity in dying. Dignity is derived from the Latin word for “worth.” There is no worth in dying; the worth is in living. The dignity is in how we live as we near the end of our lives. No matter what physical condition a person may be in at the end of their life, they are still alive. They still have the dignity of being created in the image of God.
I think Joe is might on the money. We need to do some clear thinking on this topic. The reason we celebrate Easter is because Jesus came back from the dead. Death could not hold him. That alone should tell you that death is not "natural" or "normal" or "good" in the truest sense of those words.
As Terri Schiavo moves closer to her own death, we're hearing a lot from certain people that you should "die with dignity" because death is "natural." I've never believed that, not for a moment, and don't see how you can square that with Christian theology. Death is the "last enemy" that will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). On this week of all weeks, we ought not to fall for the secular, pro-death viewpoint that death is somehow noble or good or dignified. If death is so good, why did Jesus come back from it? Why didn't he stay dead? I wholeheartedly agree that there are better and worse ways to die, and I thank God for those doctors and nurses and hospice workers and loving family and friends that give themselves tirelessly for the dying. God bless them all. They are doing God's work. But let us not mistake compassion for the dying for a mushy, misty, touchy-feely view of death. Death may be a release from pain, and in that sense it is a blessing, but death is also the result of pain and suffering. The Bible says that death came into the world because of sin (Romans 5:12), and without sin, there would be no death. That's why Revelation 21:4 says that when we get to heaven, God "will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Death, suffering and pain all belong to the "old order" that even now is passing away. Thank God, there will be graves dug into the hillsides of heaven. Jesus made sure of that on Easter Sunday morning.
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