Sunday, November 25, 2007

We Learn as We Go

Kid Christmas

Professor Hetzendorfer


10 October 2007

Response #2: Death

A person told me that “God did not design us to die, and that’s why we as fallen humanity have no innate ability to understand death.” Death is a topic about which no one, including the Church, can offer a succinct/final answer. Often the first question the person experiencing the loss of a loved one will ask is “Why?” The obvious answers (sickness, old age, accident, suicide, murder) do not sufficiently explain death. Death is not merely a tangible cause and effect situation. When a person dies, the person takes with them his/her spirit, mind, will, and emotion out of this world to – Christians say heaven – whatever comes next. People deal with death on more than a purely physical level; death causes people to begin asking questions about God, about eternity, about goodness, about justice, and about the nature of existence. This paper is a reflection upon my recent experiences with death. In particular, I will explore my pain and anguish over the death of a close friend, a young friend.

A year ago I received word that something had happened with my good friend Landon. I have known Landon since high school. After high school, Landon left Grand Junction and came to Orange County, CA to attend Vanguard University. He would come home every now and then to visit for holidays. The last time I saw him was his 21st birthday, but a year ago, Landon sent a suicide letter in the mail to a college friend. The letter arrived three days after Landon committed suicide somewhere in the Big Bear National Forest. Only, for the last year, many of us from Colorado still believed he was still alive because the original search and rescue teams found his abandoned car but not his body. Last month I found out that a hiker found what has been be identified as Landon’s remains. My friend is dead. My friend was dead that whole year. I will never see him again in this life. I will never hear his laugh or hear him sing or squeeze his arm or hug him. I feel like I have been through every stage of grief. I feel sad. I have felt angry that such a young and talented man had been stolen from this earth by depression and identity crisis. I have asked why. I do not really understand how it is that he is gone. I believed so strongly for a whole year that he was still alive. I miss him. I want to retroactively comfort him; I wish I could have been there for him more. I regret not calling him more often. In the end, I feel futile because I can not do anything about what is already done. I have no say, and that feels unjust.

Death is unreasonable to the human mind, but the Bible does offer a doctrine of comfort for those who mourn. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Also, Job 5:11 says that “Those who mourn will be lifted to safety.” The Bible promises comfort and safety to me. Jesus, the ultimate peace-giver, experienced mourning for a close friend’s death when Lazarus died. The scripture says that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). I find comfort in knowing that Jesus knows exactly how I feel. Through this painful experience, I have made it my goal to pray for the salvation of Landon’s family whenever I think of the loss of his life. I also remain open with my friends. It helps to discuss such a difficult issue with others who will simply listen to me. I decided to get out pictures of Landon and to focus on remembering his amazing qualities rather than being critical of his decision to commit suicide. I hope that God will show me how Landon’s death can glorify His name. I may never understand Landon’s death, but I know that I receive comfort when I allow God to guide my emotions through this time.

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