The two directions of death

Rosie O Beirne dying at home hands on pink blanket google 624x416

This post is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog on the topic of
Death, Loss, Pain and Grief, July 14-30, 2013.
Check out our page on to see all the other posts in this series


He had gotten up at sunrise and we found him sitting in a chair, on the back porch of his house, eyes open, staring at a beautiful backyard scene in the sun. He was dead.

Another was lying half on and half off his couch, arms extended as if reaching for something as he realized life was slipping away.

Another I never saw. I never saw them because once we opened the door, the odour told us all we needed to know. We closed the door and called the coroner.


I’ve seen death. I’ve heard people take their last breaths and I’ve been the last person someone has every spoken too.

I came home one day many years ago and found my Father laying on the ground, he was dead too. I’d just left him about 8 hours before to go the last day of week long wilderness rescue course. That would be ironic except on any other day I was answering 911 calls for medical help or dispatching Ambulances to those calls. Telling your Mom her husband of 30 years has died isn’t something any child should have to do.

I’ve seen death progress. I’ve seen people make peace with the Lord and their families and friends.

Last year my mother-in-law died from cancer. She found a lump and it was eventually diagnosed as rare and incurable. She was always a quiet woman and my wife says she was the most at peace in those final weeks and months.

They often say that there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes. I disagree, the only certainty is death. There is something though that death points us to that we often don’t realize. Death is a two way arrow pointing us to the reality of the life that came before it and the question of what comes next.

No matter how young a person is when they die, their must by definition have been life and, no matter how old they are, questions of what comes after.

It was the death of my Father that prompted me to reflect on those facts and eventually led me to make a significant life decision. As I said I was working for the local Emergency Medical Service at the time as a Dispatcher. I’m not sure if I had more good days than bad but I know I wasn’t sleeping well at all. I once went 4 days in a row without sleep. After my Father died, I started asking questions of a more eternal nature and those eventually led to me to return to the faith of my youth.

Eventually, after 8.5 years I’d finally had enough of working for EMS. I just couldn’t take the politics and the crap anymore. I reflected on the reality that I was 31 and my Father died at 63. If I only live at long as him, then I was effectively middle age. That thought terrified me, as did doing the same job for another 30 years or so.

So, I resigned and my last day was January 1, 2009. Since then, I’ve moved three times, sold my condo, started and finished my B.A., Religious Studies at Tyndale University, got married and we are now expecting our first child in December.

I never thought of it this way before, but the death of my Father set in motion events that eventually led to the creation of another family; my wife and I and however many children we are given.

Death makes us look back and look forward. Death is scary but it can also be a gift to those who care to pay attention.

One thought on “The two directions of death

  1. My mother’s death was a similar launching point for me… specifically the long period of fading that led to her death and the testimonials during that time… Witnessing death and contemplating your own is a sobering time… Thanks for sharing, Andrew.

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