Death doesn’t have the last word

As I was writing last week, my wife’s mother was dying.

She died Sunday morning, at 95, after a long and full life. It was a good death, to use an unfortunately old-fashioned phrase, but death is still death.

One effect, as many of you will understand, is to make me think more about death and those I loved who have died, like my father. (One blessing of writing is that you can pay tribute. Here’s my reflection on his death.)

The death of a loved one is one of those extreme moments that put human disagreements in context, even the deep differences between now divided Christians. My parents started going to church and settled in conservative Protestant churches.

I started going to church and moved in the other direction, first to Episcopalianism and then into the Church. Now that I’m older, I see that there’s less difference in the places we finished than either of us thought, looking at the other’s choice with the zeal of converts. But not no difference.

Their last church was the classic New England Congregationalist church: white clapboard, tall clear windows, and steeple, and inside a pulpit on a raised platform with a table (a kind of vestigial altar) on the floor in front of it.

Besides the flowers always set on the table, the church had no decoration on its white walls. There was not even a cross to be seen.

For my father’s funeral, the pastor had put a picture of him on the table, and with his face surrounded by the professional photographer’s light blue background, it looked like an icon.

Emmanuel had also put flowers either side of the picture. They had been close friends. Continue reading

  • David Mills, former executive editor of First Things, is a senior editor of The Stream, editorial director for Ethika Politika, and columnist for several Catholic publications. His latest book is Discovering Mary.


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