A good friend of mine is slowly losing his father. I say slowly, but really it's only been a month that they've had any diagnosis and about two months that he's been sick at all. So, in many ways, its unexpected and really fast for the family. I'm struggling to know how to comfort a friend in this situation, trying to remember all the "pastoral care" theology that I learned in seminary. I think it comes in useful, but the most important thing is allowing him to know that I'm there for him. I can't imagine the pain that he's going through right now, but I can listen and struggle along side of him to understand where God is and where God's mercy is being shown.
Death is such a difficult thing. As they say, it happens to all of us, but it seems to happen to all of us differently. My grandmother died at 99 years old, one month from being 100. In some ways I wish she had died a few years earlier, before she lost all of her independence. Others die so suddenly and so young, it seems so unfair. Then there are those who suffer intensely from diseases like cancer. As a pastor it's really hard to make sense of it, it's hard to point out God's purpose, it's hard and usually not appropriate to try to tell the good that is resulting in one's death.
I think it's ok to be angry. Angry at God for a time, but that anger should be refocused on death itself. Christ defeated death, though we still face in this life. If we believe in Christ's resurrection we also are believing in our own bodily resurrection. Christ did not eliminate death, but Christ overcame death. And so, for you and I and all those we love who will face death, we should be assured that death is not the end. Death is an enemy that has already been crushed and will one day be eliminated.