As many if not most of you probably know by now, beloved conservative cum moderately progressive Christian author and speaker Rachel Held Evans passed away on May 4th at only thirty-seven years of age from complications of the flu and a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics. She is survived by, among others, her husband and two young children.
And the moderately progressive Christian world reeled.
How could this be? They were shocked, some even outraged, by the unfairness of it all. Not Rachel! Not her, of all people! Oh, there was weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth across the Twitterverse, the Facebookverse, and every other social mediaverse you might imagine. It seemed to me to go beyond what one might expect, even in light of the passing of such a young, talented, and gracious woman.
And then it dawned on me.
Deep inside, in places we don’t examine very often or very well, many of us believe that if we are good enough, or talented enough, or devout enough, or pretty enough – and most of all if we are all of those things – God will save us from adversity and at least untimely death. There’s only one thing wrong with that belief.
It doesn’t work that way.
Everybody dies. None of us are getting out of here alive. None of us knows when it will happen, although there is some indication that at least some of us will have a sense when death is close beyond looking up to see the grill of a bus as we cross the street. We all have different ways of dealing with it and different ways of explaining it. In fact, trying to explain it may well be at the root of most religion. The important thing is that not dealing with it is no way to deal with it. Denial never solved anything, unless the problem was not having enough problems.
As hard as this may be to accept, Rachel Held Evans died because we all die. Some die sooner, others later, but we all die. She didn’t do anything wrong and her death makes no statement about her life. The best thing we can say to the loved ones she leaves behind is, “I’m sorry.” The best thing we can do for them is simply be present. The best thing we can do for ourselves, after the mourning is over and the morning has come, is to come to a better understanding of the great teaching that is death.