Last week a veteran missionary who was loved by many died. It was not a sad death. This lady had wanted to die for a long time. In fact, many of us had been praying that she could be released from her body and be free from the suffering she was experiencing in her last days here on earth.
The death of a Christian who has lived a long life faithfully serving our Lord Jesus Christ is really not sad. In fact, the Bible says, “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Yet, I struggle to know what to say when it is up to me to tell others that someone died.
In the case of this missionary, I wanted to send an email to our staff. I didn’t want to say, “She died,” so I said this: “Friends, we have learned that her longing, to leave her body that had stopped working and be in the Presence of her Lord, was met last night. I can imagine her meeting all the leaders she has trained from Congo and with her contagious laughter say, “I think I feel a story coming on.” Plans are pending but there will be a Memorial Service at her home church at some later date when the family can all be together.” The response I got from a couple of staff members (yes, they were male) was “Well, did she die or not? We couldn’t tell from the email.”
Some people say, “She passed,” some say, “she was born to eternal life,” and hospital records will say, “expired.” It gets even more complicated when we remember that as Christians eternal life begins when we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and when we stop breathing we don’t really die but move in a mysterious way into the Presence of the Lord where at some point we will get a new body.
I guess I could have said that she left her tent but that might have begged the question, “I thought she was too sick to go camping?” The Bible says we are to grieve but not as those who have no hope. What are the best words to communicate this mystery?