Last week my 96-year old friend called to tell me that her dear sister-in-law had passed away during the night. Not long ago I had taken my friend to visit her frail loved one. Her death was not unexpected, but I was startled a bit when my friend told me that she was looking forward to the gravesite service. It seemed an odd thing to say. Turns out that my friend’s cemetery plot is located very near her sister-in-law’s. She was anxious to once again see the place where she would one day be buried under a canopy of trees.
Experience tells me that my friend’s matter-of-fact attitude about death is not unusual among Christians. Those who have a strong foundation of faith are usually not afraid of death. What they are afraid of is becoming invisible to the rest of the world. Of being forgotten.
Just a few weeks ago, I sat at a dining table with elderly friends at their senior residence. They were not being morbid as they began to name all the residents who had died in the last few years. They know the longer they live, the more losses they will endure. They accept it as part of life.
But now that the holidays are over and the poinsettias given to homebound members have been thrown in the trash, what will our churches do to remember older adults who sit silently in wheelchairs on gray January afternoons? What will the church do to reassure the lonely widows that they have not been forgotten? What will we do to make certain the least of these do not grow invisible as they grow older?