Barnabas Network International | Online Resources for Churches


The Birth We Call Death 


My eldest son was about to become a father for the very first time. I was sitting in the hospital waiting room anticipating my first entry into the status of grandfather. Keith emerged from the labour ward looking drawn and concerned. Things were not going well for Tanya. Her labour was already many hours old and progress seemed to have stopped. But not the pain.   "Dad, I wish I could take the pain away from her, or at least share it and relieve it somehow". I tried to support him as we each had a quick cup of coffee before he went back into the delivery suite to be with his wife.  


As I watched him return, my mind drifted back a few years to another ward in another hospital. On that occasion I was with my father. He, too, came out of a private ward where my mother, his wife, lay dying. The doctor had indicated that death was imminent. He didn't say so but I could tell that dad wanted to relieve his wife of any suffering she may have been experiencing.   Facial expressions. Body language. Occasional words.


In both of the above scenarios, the similarities were amazing yet the events were so entirely different. Or were they? On the surface the two events could not have been further apart. One was wrestling with the pain that heralded a life coming into the world. The other with a life departing this world.   Yet as I have reflected on those two events, I find myself wondering if each represented a birth? Such reflections have led me to a place and perspective that help me look at death in a new light.  


My son had watched with delight during the previous 9 months as his wife's body slowly changed shape as the life within her womb grew and developed ready for that special day when, at last, their little girl was released from the confines and constraints of that human bubble and broke free into a life that it had not known during those months.   My dad had watched with sadness as his wife's terminal illness had taken its toll on her body over quite some years. Now he awaited the announcement that the battle was over and she had been released from the confines and constraints from the 'womb' of her earthly existence into a life and freedom she had never known before.  


In the case of my first grandchild, she was being released into a new life where she would be greeted by an earthly father and family who would love her and guide her through this life.   In the case of my mother, she was being released into a new life where she would be greeted by a heavenly Father and family who would love her into the infinity of eternity.  


The birth we call death. Yes, it is just that! I'm very mindful that the 'death event' involves the pain of separation and the overwhelming grief and sense of loss. But the bigger, long term perspective of physical death being a birth offers itself to us not as a denial of what transpires at the end of our earthly life but as a reality.

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