I was lining up at gate B10 at the Atlanta airport, waiting to catch my flight to Nashville. All of a sudden the silence of the gate area was broken by a cry of “Make way! We need room!” Around the corner emerged some paramedics pushing a large, shirtless man on a gurney. His face was covered by an oxygen mask. He looked less frightened than in great pain. He groaned repeatedly as he was hurriedly rushed to the waiting ambulance. I prayed.
As I continued into the jet bridge, I couldn’t help pondering how mortaliy had invaded that man’s life; how death was trying to push its way into life.
Certainly, at the beginning of his day that man had not given much thought to that fact that today might have been his last. I know that as I got into my car and drove to the Greensboro airport, I didn’t pause to consider it. Most days, even in Lent, I’m ignorant (or at least only subconsciously aware) of my mortality.
It’s with good cause that many Compline services end with a prayer that acknowledges before God our need of His persevering grace should we pass from this life into the next while we sleep.
Our culture is profoundly afraid of death. We are remarkably detached from mortality. We committed to perpetuating a strong delineation between life and death–we don’t die well, nor do those of us who continue to live do well in experiencing the death of another.
The church must give closer attention to the way it guides parishioners in approaching death and in the way we walk with those whose friends or loved ones die. We need a theology of death.