Helping a Person Die

Pastor Scott

Have you ever helped a person die?

In John 12, it reads: Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. Some disciples thought she was wasting expensive perfume while others thought it could be sold and given to the poor. Only Jesus knew what Mary was doing. By pouring on this perfume, she was anointing Jesus for his burial. She was helping a friend die.

It is a sacred privilege to walk with someone during their final journey. Sometimes death happens too quickly with a heart attack, and you don’t have the opportunity. Other times it lingers on for too long like with Alzheimer’s Disease. Those holy moments happen in between when you have time to talk about important things, say your goodbyes, plan your funeral, bless your children, or just sit together in silence.

Gretchen and I are helping someone die. Her mother, Helen.

To be sure, it is hard work, especially for Gretchen. The doctor’s visits, the therapists, the pill box and now the late evenings as anxiety creeps into Helen’s soul when the sun goes down. It’s exhausting both physically and emotionally. When Helen doesn’t answer the phone, you think the worst. You schedule time for the brothers to come in to say their final goodbyes. You bring in whatever food that even sounds somewhat good to her. And the tears. They flow freely.

Why the tears? This is an 88-year-old woman full of faith, who lived a great life and is surrounded by an adoring family. Why the tears? She has no fear of death and is ready to meet Jesus. Why the tears? She is filled with the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. So why the tears?

Because death stinks. Death is part of the fallen, broken world. Death steals loved ones from our arms, robs us of birthday celebrations, and denies us one more family dinner of laughter late into the night. Death is the enemy. That’s why the tears.

But Paul comforts us by saying, “We do not grieve as those do who have no hope.” As believers, our tears are just as real, the hole in our heart is just as gaping, and the grief is just as sad. But our tears are different. Because of Jesus, our tears are not hopelessness. Our tears are simply because we will miss her. But through those tears we can say with sure and certain hope, “I will see you again.”

So, while these days are filled with exhaustion, medicine, and tears, we would not be anywhere else. It is a sacred and holy privilege to walk with someone you love on this final journey and help them die.  Helen was there for her daughter’s first breath. Gretchen will be there for her mom’s last breath.

When Mary poured that oil on Jesus, anointing him for his burial, helping a friend die, only Jesus got it.  Only Jesus understood what she was doing. Why did Mary do it? Because she loved Jesus? Yes. Because she considered it a privilege to help him die? Absolutely. .But maybe in some Holy Spirit way, Mary knew that Jesus would, one day, return the favor.

Of all the things that Jesus does, I have to think his greatest joy and sacred privilege is to be there for each one of us, to help us die. . .so that he can help us live.

Soon and Very Soon,

Pastor Scott

GENEROUS LIVING