Archive for the ‘death’ Tag




“Why does everyone suddenly love someone if they die young?”


So asked a GCSE student during a lesson last week. We were talking about JFK at the time – a largely unpopular President whom everyone pretended to have voted for and supported following his tragic assassination at the hands of killers unknown (ooh, controversial!) – but I’m sure he was also thinking of reality TV star Jade Goody, recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. The transformation of this young woman in the eyes of the press has truly been astonishing to behold. No longer the racist; no longer the shamelessly talent-free ‘reality TV’ attention-seeker, ridiculed for her lack of intelligence or obscene antics… Now she is ‘Brave Jade’, ‘Jade the Hero’. Why? Because she is about to die. Neither is she alone in this metamorphosis. Her fiancé – the convicted criminal who cheated on her – is now her knight in shining armour, giving her the fairy-tale wedding she ‘deserves’; whilst her friends and bridesmaids are ‘angels’, at least according to the front page of the Mirror.


Now let’s get this straight. I am not lacking compassion. I was as shocked and saddened as anyone else vaguely acquainted with Jade through the media when I heard that this young woman was set to leave her children motherless. It reminds us that death is an aberration; that death is a curse… But it will happen to all of us – every one (Second Coming notwithstanding!). So the question IS valid – why do we deify those afflicted early? Why do they get painted in these fairytale colours we all know to be absurd? Well the answer I came up with in class was imperfect, but I was still pleased enough with it to come home and write about it! It ran roughly as follows.


Despite how it may seem, most people are NOT atheists. Most people are agnostic or are uncommitted theists of various degrees, actively choosing, under usual circumstances, to not think about the things that really matter. Death terrifies the world as it forces them to confront big possibilities they’ve been running from – possibilities like judgement and punishment, perhaps on an eternal scale. This is, frankly, too much. Hell is unthinkably frightening. Not just for Jade, but for everyone. Therefore, the whitewash begins. In a matter of months or weeks, the tabloids, as one, will be writing of how Jade is ‘in heaven’, ‘looking down’ upon her children. In order for this to work, they first need to wipe her slate clean – purge her of her sins and ‘fit her for Heaven, to live with Thee there’, to quote a popular carol! Man is trying to take the place of God once again.


I’m not sure there’s a great deal more to say here, other than to state the obvious: Jade needs to place her faith in Jesus if she is to meaningfully assuage, in any way, the fear she must be experiencing right now. As for the tabloid audience – they need to realise that death doesn’t make someone a ‘hero’… they should realise we’re all destined for that same path, and try therefore to work out honestly how to prepare for the possibility that they will one day face their creator. They will, I’m sure, feel far from heroic once the day arrives.   



Posted 12/2/07

Yesterday began with a sore head and ended with tears. So tidily packaged were its themes and lessons that, were I writing a diary, the historian within me would question the credibility of that day’s entry. By way of example, I spent most of the day noisily informing anyone who’d listen how blessed Nina and I were in our group of friends, before unexpectedly spending the evening discovering the true cost of that friendship – surrounded by people preparing for the death of a young man they very much cared for.

Let me backtrack – to my 28th birthday celebration on Saturday night– the source of my aforementioned sore head. Now this isn’t one of my angst-riddled confessions. I actually did quite well. This was always going to be a challenge; my first birthday outing since unofficially recommitting to the Christian faith. It involved 6 straight hours in a bar, at least 25 non-Christian friends, all of whom vowed to buy me a drink, and a precedent for considerable merriness. With this in mind, I took along Tom Stanbury – known by most who may read this. He was there as a tentative first bridge between my fledgling Christian community and the outside world, as well as because he’s starting to feel like a proper mate. However, unbeknown to him, he was also there to induce in me a sense of accountability – I wanted to be able to look him in the eye the next day during the sermon. And so the evening rolled by, everyone was late but got there in the end. Fun and profound conversation was had by all and I drank more than a model churchman probably should – but considerably less than the Bishop of Southwark. Above all, I kept to beer, drank it relatively slowly, kept control of my tongue (Cursing, bitching, stupidity and flirtation being among the common drunkards’ worst vices) and, some dodgy dancing aside, steered clear of utter foolishness. Stanbury, on the other hand, was definitely slurring his words…

So I awoke Sunday feeling blessed. I still do. It is great to have people who care for you and wish you well – people who will think nothing of travelling to central London (despite the Tube all but packing up) and spending lots of money for the sake of little old me. But I am aware I owe them more than that in return. If my friendship is true and sincere, then I will endeavour at least to get them to an evening service and to speak to them honestly about the gospel. It’s easier to write than do, but the events of Sunday night were a chilling reminder that time is not unending, and neither are the opportunities to save my friends from a death far worse and more permanent than that awaiting James Meagher.

James is a guy I met a few times, had dinner with once as part of a group, and turned down an invitation from to spend New Years’ Eve at his party. Those memories will never be added to, as cancer is claiming him (perhaps by the time I write, perhaps a little later in the week) before the age of 30. He is married, like me, to his childhood sweetheart, who will never have children by him, nor grow old alongside him. These facts, more than any other, did sting my eyes when Perks shared the news of his demise and dedicated the evening service to him. All around me, however, were people who could truly call him a friend. Some of the congregation weren’t present – his wife and best friend Sarah was by his bedside, whilst her friend Audrey was alongside her, offering support. That’s the real deal and the real blessing of friendship. The difference between it happening to James, and it happening to someone among my Saturday night crowd, is that among the sadness in Sunday’s congregation – and it was a real choking sadness – was the assurance that James was going somewhere amazing, and that they would meet him again. That’s when you realise, as Perks stated, that church is so much more than hobby – it is indeed a matter of life and death. By the time James crosses over, his faith in Jesus better be well-placed, everything depends on it. Much to my relief, forced to consider the grim reality of death, I find myself genuinely believing that it’s very well-placed indeed.