A year before my mother died, she heard her father call to her during the night. When I visited her in the nursing center, she said his voice was so clear that she answered and struggled to get up. This was the first sign that she would spend her final year of life in a twilight that blended past and present.
After rumors circulated that President Obama’s health-care reform would institute “death panels” for the elderly, Congress quickly abandoned any effort to address end-of-life issues in health-care legislation.
With surprising swiftness and dramatic results, a significant segment of American Christians has over the past 50 years abandoned previously established funeral customs in favor of an entirely new pattern of memorializing the dead. Generally included in the pattern is a brief, customized memorial service (instead of a funeral), a focus on the life of the deceased, an emphasis on joy rather than sadness, and a private disposition of the deceased.
At my 20-week ultrasound appointment, my husband and I learned that the baby that we are expecting has a fatal birth defect. Sometime very early in his development something went drastically wrong. His skull never formed—the whole top and back part of it simply did not exist. We will probably never find a medical answer to why he developed this way.
When I was a kid, my brother and I loved playing with toy dinosaurs. I’d let my brother take the ever-popular T. Rex while I went for the stegosaurus. Its back plates and tail spikes were cool, but it was this dinosaur’s second brain that put it over the top for me. I think I intuited at an early age that two brains are a good idea in the scheme of things.
Every year we preachers eagerly look for help with the daunting challenge of preparing an Easter sermon. Never are we as acutely aware of our own limitations, intellectual and spiritual, as when we try to find words to express the reality that a dead man didn’t remain dead.