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Tinsley column: Death and dying

Bill Tinsley
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St. James Plaindealer

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

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Last week the number of deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 200,000. Experts predict that this number could double by the end of the year. Had we known these numbers in the spring we would have been staggered. But now, more than six months into the coronavirus pandemic, we have become numb. Most of us read the reports as statistics, a way of keeping score. Some have even concluded that the number of deaths is “acceptable,” a relatively small percentage of our population, even though it is equivalent to 1,000 airline crashes with 200 fatalities each in the span of 7 months. But for those 200,000 families and their friends, it is personal. Each has a story. Each feels the loss.

Last week a young couple from Minnesota with their three small children spent four days in our home in Colorado so they could visit his mother who lives nearby and is dying of cancer. Knowing her cancer is terminal, she has chosen not to pursue additional treatment. Instead, she has been assigned to hospice care in her home. They stayed with us so they could give her space while spending the best parts of the day loving and caring for her. They comforted one another while facing death with courage and confidence, the children and grandchildren gathering around her in her final days.

Whether it is COVID, cancer or some other means, death will come to us all. We try to avoid it, try to not think about it. But it comes to everyone, to the obscure and the famous, the rich and the poor, all nations, all races, and all cultures. Every generation must learn how to deal with death.

Psalm 90 recorded this prayer from Moses: “You turn men back into dust and say, ‘Return O children of men.’ For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night. You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; in the morning they are like grass that sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away. … We have finished our years like a sigh. … So teach us to number our days that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. … O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:3-14).

The song “Ten Thousand Reasons” has become one of my favorites. It contains these stanzas:

“The sun comes up there’s a new day dawning,

It’s time to sing your song again.

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me,

May I be singing when the evening comes.

And on that day, when my strength is failing,

The end draws near and my time has come,

Still my soul will sing your praise unending,

Ten thousand years and then forever more.”

During this pandemic year may we discover the lovingkindness and comfort that comes from the One who holds eternity in His hands. “Everyone who lives and believes in Me,” Jesus said, “shall never die” (John 11:26).

Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. His book of poems, “People Places and Things” is available free on Amazon as an e-book Oct. 1-5. His books are available at www.tinsleycenter.com. Email bill@tinsleycenter.com.