For the past several years, since I have not pastored a church, I have (pardon the pun) made a living from death, being employed at a local Funeral Home. If you’ve ever had the privilege of working in or around that setting you know that it can be very wearisome and difficult, but at the same time rewarding, teaching you as much about life as death; I recently had a lesson in both.
Part of my responsibilities is what is called “removals”, which simply means removing bodies from places of death, be it a hospital, Hospice, or a home and transferring them to the Funeral Home. This is always difficult, primarily because of the grief involved…I NEVER get used to witnessing people grieve and hurt. But the recent lesson I’m referring to didn’t involve family at all, because there was none.
It was on a Sunday night when I got the call to go to a house in town, “The Police are there but no family” was what I was told. Upon my arrival I was told by Law Enforcement that someone had tried to contact the resident but no one answered for several days. When I entered the home I was disturbed to say the least. The house was well lived in but not well kept; there were several cats running loose, obviously distraught; and the air conditioning was set on a steamy 78 degrees. The most disturbing sight was the deceased man, lying face first on the kitchen floor; he had been there several days. It was obvious that he had suffered from diabetes which led to several extremities being surgically removed. I haven’t heard the official report of what caused his death and probably never will; all I know is he was very much dead… It all was a sad sight. I will spare you the details of the “removal” and move on to what it taught me.
I couldn’t help but wonder who his family was and where were they??? I also wondered about friends…how could someone in this evidently poor condition be dead for days before anyone knew? I wondered if his cats served as his family and friends??? I wondered if he died a lonely man as it appeared to me. I am not supposed to let emotions keep me from doing my job, and I didn’t, but my emotions were certainly intensified as I pondered these questions. Sure, he may not have been lonely at all; he may have had many friends and family members; he may have died exactly as he wished to die, but it still made me wonder. And I still wonder…
I wonder if it would have ended the same if someone would have done something as simple as called him on the phone, or waved to him as they passed, or if someone sent him a card in the mail, or an e-mail, or if someone had invited him to ride to church with them, or…well, you get the picture…. I just wonder. I thought about how many times I have missed the fact that someone was lonely…that sometimes someone just needs to know that someone else is thinking about them and that they matter. I wonder if, in our day of mega churches and glamorous “worship” if people like this would even be welcomed. I wonder how many times I have overlooked people and added to their loneliness.
God forgive me, and may I be emptied of self, filled with Christ, and concerned… Matthew 25:36