I have learned many things as a pastor and am sure I will learn much more. One of the main things I have learned is that people do not like talking about… death and dying. People would rather talk about anything else, just not that topic. However, death is part of life and it is something that we all must face.
Are we prepared for death? Death impacts us all. As I think back on deaths in my life, two come to mind immediately. The first is that of my Aunt Betty. I had worked for my aunt on the farm (my first paying job) and other various jobs and she and I had a close relationship. My grandma, cousin and aunt were going over to Owen-Withee to get a ham in December of 1982. They were making a left-hand turn and a truck driver did not see them turning and hit the car. My grandma and cousin survived but my Aunt Betty did not. It was my first experience with death that I can remember. It was made worse by an event that happened at the funeral home the day of the funeral. There was a visitation at the funeral home before the funeral at the church. Family and visitors had left the funeral home to go to the church or were waiting outside. It was just the pallbearers (my aunt’s nephews) and funeral home personnel remaining. The funeral personnel went up to close the casket (not realizing the pallbearers were family) and began to close the casket and it pretty much dropped and made a sound that was chilling. To this day it is a sound I have never forgotten. Most of my cousins (including me) had never experienced the closing of a casket before. Because of the solemnity and finality to it and because it was our aunt – well, we broke down. Family outside were wondering what the delay was, but we were finally calmed down and brought the casket out to the hearse and proceeded on – death and its finality etched in our minds.
The second death that really affected me was the death of my Grandpa Starks. Grandpa Starks taught me about life, about farming (however, I very much disliked picking rock), and about the outdoors (hunting, fishing, making maple syrup, picking berries, and the list goes on and on). Some of my greatest memories are of picking berries with my Grandpa and Grandma Starks. Grandma Starks was in the hospital after surgery and Grandpa was at home. My uncle came by to pick Grandpa up on Sunday morning and found him sitting outside on the house steps and he was dead. He had been mowing the lawn and backed into a sharp object by the camper and did not immediately realize that it had punctured behind his knee. He went to get a band-aid but bled to death, sitting there on the steps of the house. It hit all of us hard and his health had been good, so we just could not understand it.
With both deaths, they happened so quickly, so unexpectedly, I know we were in shock at the funerals and probably had not even begun to grieve. I know I was angry with God and questioned how God could let something like this happen. I know now that God does not take lives nor that the deaths happened for a reason. In life, things happen and it is just part of life. However, it still is hard … (to be continued)