In recent months, restrictions from COVID–19 have severely affected the entire world. In addition to disrupting the regular rhythms of life, we’ve also seen it infringe upon the monumental and essential dates. Wedding plans, graduations, vacations, and other anticipated events were canceled. We hear their stories and sympathize with our friends and family.
But there’s one group whose lives have been uniquely altered. And we don’t hear about it because they aren’t here to tell us. I’m talking about those who’ve died alone.
Because of the daily tallies broadcast on the news, we are painfully aware of the number of people who’ve died from COVID (183,000 in the United States as of today). But as the American Heart Association reports, more people are dying during the pandemic and not just from COVID. There is an increase in deaths across the board. And in most cases, they die alone. With restrictions in place, those in the final hours of life cannot die like many in years past. They and their loving families are not afforded the customary comfort of visiting, last words, and a held hand.
As I reflected on the death of a friend during this time, I turned over this difficulty in my mind. I wished his family and friends could’ve been near him. I wished that I, as his pastor, could’ve been near. I lamented how he had to walk through the shadow of death alone.
But then I remembered.
As is so often the case, the trials and difficulties in this life reveal the privileged position of those who walk with God. The truth is, God is with his people. They are never alone.
I remembered the comforting words of the Psalm 11615: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” In one sense, Christians die as all people die; it’s common to humanity because of the curse. But in another sense, we don’t die in just the same way.
Christians do not die alone; omnipresent and steadfast love rush to their bedside. The believer never escapes the tender eyes of the Lord.
In his book The Precious Things of God, Octavius Winslow writes:
[T]he friendship of God transcends all friendship, even as the love of God transcends all love. God loves not only the persons but the interests and concerns of His people. There is nothing, beloved, appertaining to you that Christ does not feel an interest in. He is concerned in all your sorrows, in all your trials, in all your infirmities, in all your wants, in all your temptations. Do not think His is a divided affection. Oh, no! Your person precious to His heart, all that relates to you is precious—your life is precious—your death is precious. Can you think of the departure to eternity of one you love with indifference?
Definitely not. God is like a dear friend who hurries to the bedside of his ailing friend. Like a family member who sees their relative suffering, he draws near. Like a spouse who has shared years and years, he comes close and sees. And he says this is precious. It’s precious because he loves us so. He loves us completely, even to the end (John 13:1).
In this season we join with many to grieve their isolated deaths. And at that same time, we who stand under the canopy of grace can rejoice in the blessed privilege of the children of God. While physically alone and separate from family, no believer truly dies alone; God is with them, and they are precious in his sight.