I wonder how you felt when you read this title. Which word shocked you the most? Was it the mention of death? Or was it the cursing?

Photo: Martyn Gorman, re-used under CC license

There is a certain rawness to cursing which cannot be carried across by polite language. Because curses, when unexpected, shock. Just like death: when it happens unexpectedly to someone close to you, it shocks you. And it wouldn’t do the bereft justice; it wouldn’t be kind or loving towards them to sweeten it up with polite words. Saying words such as “A passing is a difficult moment” is plainly repugnant to the pain that the bereft feel. Nearly as bad is “My condolences“: all of these make the suffering an abstract object and simply hide its reality, alongside death’s.

But death that surprises – sudden death: that has the same sort of rawness to it. The kind of shock that makes you go back and check in disbelief. The kind of shock that makes you want not to believe it happened. You are left completely perplexed: why did it happen? How is it fair? Where does that leave… me?

And there’s no answer to give to these questions, none that will bring solace. The promise of a heaven up there somewhere does not bring any form of answer to these questions – it is simply placing hope in a distant future, boxing in our pain with a hope that can never be tested, and with a hope that is, if considered independently of the rest of the promise, incredibly fragile.

So that’s why I picked this title: because I did not want to sugarcoat death into something that “just happens, and life goes on.” And, in more than a way, I think this title sums up perfectly what I want to say about death.

There’s more to that statement, too: death is a bitch. It has been submitted. We can look at death, and it will still bite, but it cannot hurt us – not really: death has lost its sting. This last sentence is far more offensive than the title, though: it appears to say that the pains that people feel at the death of loved ones is imaginary or faked. No, these pains are real.

But their truth is passing. See, the main stinging power of death is that it reminds us that we’re not in control. But death is not the victor; death is not the one in control; and neither are we. We don’t own our lives. The things that make us feel secure are just passing, transient illusions; until we realise they are not for us to hold on to. In giving ourselves over to the One who saves, we can see death for the submitted bitch it truly is; and that has the power to comfort.

And once death has lost its sting, we enjoy life eternal, and we enjoy it now.

Note: for any friends who may worry after reading this, I want to make abundantly clear that I did not personally suffer a bereavement. But I was told of someone getting run over and the pain was so visible it was impossible not to be moved.