Pray to Die Well

This week I’ve found myself thinking about death a bit, and in particular the idea of dying well.

For christians dying is a transition from the world of limitations, brokenness and sin to the life lived in the fullness of the presence of God where there is no death, no sin, and everything is made new.

So death is not to be feared, but to be approached with confidence, even joy. Therefore for many centuries christians would pray for the grace to die well, that is peacefully.

Our culture has turned a blind eye to death because we all want to believe we will be for ever young and never die. We have relegated death to a private act, preferably in hospital.

Lately there has been a trend in churches to be “positive” and focus more on living well and less on eternity and transitioning there. So christians are less likely than ever to pray to die well.

This week I heard of two instances of christians dying well.

The first was the very public death in Indonesia of eight people, all drug smugglers and all foreigners, including two Australians. Most of this group of eight had become christians in their time in prison. The two Australians in particular had worked tirelessly to help their fellow inmates. Andrew Chan had gone as far as to be ordained as a pastor, and was recognised as such in the prison.

These men went bravely to their death, refusing the customary blindfolds and singing hymns. A pastor who witnessed the executions said she had never seen a group of people so keen to go to be with the Lord.

These men died well, bravely, even heroically.

Yesterday I attended a funeral for a local lady, a mother of three, who was diagnosed with cancer seven months ago. She is relatively young, and the cancer was an aggressive type. Although the doctors thought she might live two years, she died much more quickly. Her husband gave the major part of the eulogy, but he shared how she died. He related how on Friday night he climbed into bed next to her and, as he had done every night for their entire marriage, he kissed her three times and said, “Goodnight.” Then, he said, she breathed two quick breaths as if saying “Goodnight” and that was it.

Leonie died a good death.

Lord, grant that we may die peacefully and well.

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