'Sudden Death' Robs Us of The Chance to Say Goodbye
In the church of England's 1662 prayer book, there is a line that reads, "From sudden death, Good Lord, deliver us."
That line expresses one of the greatest human fears. The fear of dying without warning.
It could be argued that all death comes as a surprise. I've had my share of friends and family who suffered terminal illness or were simply very old, but even then, death seemed unexpected.
The "sudden death," that we fear the most, however, is the kind that strikes out of the blue. The automobile crash that takes the life of a teenager. The heart attack that strikes down a 40-year-old athlete.
Or, in the recent case of a dear friend, the body that breaks under the strain of sudden illness.
A friend, Elizabeth L. "Beth" Bridges, 38, died suddenly on Jan. 11. Beth had been bothered through the holidays by the same bug that plagued much of the Hampton Roads area of Virginia where she lived. But that cold/bronchitis thing turned into the flu, which turned quickly into a deadly pneumonia. By the time Beth got to the hospital, she was nearly comatose and her body had begun to shut down. Less than 48 hours later, she died.
On the following Monday, Beth's family and her many, many friends held a memorial service. Beth's life was the church. A Christian educator, she had worked for four United Methodist churches in her short lifetime: Corinth UMC in Sandston, Va., and locally at Lynnhaven, Community and Great Bridge UMCs. Beth was also an active member of the Tidewater Emmaus Community and an accomplished musician and actress.
Expectedly, the large church was packed.
The service was an amazing tribute to a well-loved woman. Though Beth left no instructions, the service was planned to perfection, even down to the bulletin printed on paper of her favorite color, goldenrod yellow. Using Beth's well-worn Bible for direction, the four participating pastors gleaned her favorite Bible verses.
And the music . . . well, the music was the most beautiful I've ever heard. Two choirs and a praise band offered their gifts to God and to Beth's cherished memory.