I lost a long term parishioner this morning.  I joined his family around his body and we said prayers together.  I attended services for another long term parishioner in another congregation this afternoon.  Then I had coffee with a parishioner who is grieving various deaths in his own life.  He was trying to make sense of death and loss in his life.  So we got to talking.  Why do people die?  What could God possibly have been thinking?

I remember studying the “question of evil”  (why does God let bad things happen?) back in college.  And the thought then, and I think it’s probably right, was what was called the “soul building” defense:  God lets bad things happen because God thinks something good will come out of it, which could otherwise not happen — spiritual growth resulting in a developed soul.  God invites us to become something, something worth becoming.  If we had forever, and never died, we might never get around to becoming what God is calling us to become.  And growing, as God wants us to grow, requires that we have the freedom to make real choices — which include choices that hurt ourselves, others and God’s creation.

In fact, I have a split view of death.  On the one hand, death is certainly final in this world we live in.  I’m inclined to go with (I believe it’s) Dylan Thomas:  “do not go gentle into that good night/rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  That’s roughly what he said to his father, who was dying, in his poem.  And yet I also trust that I will be whole and loved in a life to come, beyond this one.  I fear it, and I rage against it, but I believe my death will lead me into a kind of fuller, more complete life with my God.  Sometimes I can even look forward to that.

I also think life is worth living.  I would rather live and die than never live at all.  I’ve lost loved ones to death.  I feel blessed by their lives.  I’m glad I knew them.  I believe they are in loving hands.