To Die Is Gain?

Geoff and I attended a funeral on Saturday that none in attendance is likely to forget.

Midway through the service, as people were giving thanks to God for their memories of the godly 95 year old woman whom God had ‘taken home’, the woman’s son-in-law, a 61 year old man, suffered a severe heart attack. His wife and daughters were frantic, and most of us too dumbfounded to know what to do.

That is when the miraculous began to break in upon the normal.


Someone shouted, “Call 9-1-1.” Within three seconds, two fully equipped EMTs in blue uniforms were on the scene working on this man, keeping him alive until an ambulance could be brought to take him to the hospital. Later that day he received four stints and was said to be doing well. The doctor who did the surgery said that they often lose people in the hospital to such heart attacks.

So how was he kept alive in this case?

A member of the family was a fireman. After the service started, two friends of this fireman decided to stop by, even though they were late, to pay their respects and offer condolences to their friend. Two minutes after they arrived, they were needed.

Also present in the service was a cardiologist and a cardiac nurse. I’m still amazed.

God, it seemed, wanted this guy to live. Why then the heart attack in the first place? I can’t probe the mystery of God’s providence, but I wonder if at some level He wanted us to reflect upon the ambivalence we have regarding life and death.

At funerals we love to talk about the glories of heaven and the wonder of being with our savior. In the midst of the expression of such sentiments, a man literally tries to leave this earth and go to that place of which we had been speaking so fondly. In response, we pray that he not go and we apply all the skills and expertise in the world to keep him here.

I prayed for him to stay, and I celebrate his recovery, and I praise the expertise of those who saved him. But in my heart of hearts do I REALLY believe what Paul says that ‘to die is gain’? I wonder.