The last enemy

There was a BBC camera shot of the Queen at the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh that seemed a gross intrusion. The director and cameraman could have had no conception of the pain that was being felt, no understanding of the emotions that may have been experienced at that moment.

No matter at what age it comes, death always brings grief.

Fifty years ago, at the time of decimalisation in Britain in early 1971, there was reportedly a lady who told a reporter that she didn’t mind the idea of the decimal money, but that she thought that the Government might have waited for the old people to die before they brought the new money in. Everyone laughed when the story was told. Sometimes, though, there seems to be a sort of sense in what she was saying. Sometimes it seems that it would be a whole lot easier if things could be put off for just a while.

During my years of parochial ministry, if I had been asked for what I would wish if I could wish for anything, I would have asked for a moratorium on people dying, at least on my patch, so that I could get through to retirement without having to stand wordless as another family lost a loved one.

I hate death. I hate all the euphemisms we use for it. I hate watching the grief and the pain. I hate the emptiness that is still there years afterwards.

It would be a nonsense to suggest that Christians are meant to be reconciled to death. Saint Francis, whatever else he may have got right, got it wrong when he spoke of our “Sister Death.” The Bible never uses such benign terms about something so dark. Saint Paul is quite clear about where we stand. He writes in 1 Corinthians 15:26, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” No sisterly regard from that apostle, no ambiguity, death is an enemy that is to be destroyed. There was no mistaking what Saint Paul says. There was no mistaking what Saint Peter says either. The dead were trapped in Hades and Jesus goes to preach to them in order that they might have a chance of escape. The idea that death was a sister would have sounded strange and alien to the Jewish ears of Peter: death was an end, a negation of life.

Perhaps the BBC television crew were unmoved at the death of a ninety-nine year old man, perhaps they would have argued that the camera shots of the Queen were in the public interest. Perhaps it is only the experience of grief that persuades people that death is an enemy.

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4 Responses to The last enemy

  1. Doonhamer says:

    Too much on TV the camera is looking for tears. So many programmes depend on this with the accompaniment of the soulful piano. At the crucial moment the camera zooms in on the quivering lip, the brimming eye.
    I hate it.

    • Ian says:

      The culture created by social media and reality television seems to have turned people’s personal tragedies into material for entertainment

  2. Jestering To Death says:

    Speaking of which, watch the 2008 Benedict Cumberbatch series The Last Enemy (a search for articles mentioning this in the context of the Covid19 pandemic brought me here).

    Now you might hate death (why? It is part of an integrated cycle of life, I suggest your religion is a bit deluded and inferior than those who can handle death and integrate it positively – relatively-so at least, into their philosophies.
    To put it another way: Materialism is good for the soul, is it?
    Personally I hate it more when life becomes like death – empty and full of robotic machinations to serve a technocracy.
    The Last Enemy is actually quite realistic in many regards, and ought to be being discussed currently. I get zero hits in my search, suspiciously. It cannot currently be streamed on the BBC but can be streamed on Amazon, or bought on DVD, etc.
    I cannot reveal the spoiler that links it with Covid, and the vaccine – but if you watch it, you will be shocked, most likely.
    This is the world we live in… Even the fictional version is more honest in some ways than the News and Government broadcasts.

    Good luck, anyway, and lovely Windmill picture above. Makes me feel very nostalgic and wish to cycle gently through the countryside without a care in the world.
    Good luck with the rest of the pandemic and life in general. Peace be with you.

    • Ian says:

      Thank you for the link.

      “Britain has been transformed into a security state after a major terrorist attack, ID cards are strictly enforced and citizens’ every movement is watched.”

      Oh dear, it does have a familiar feeling.

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