The face of death

I spent some time today chatting with a young man whose work includes digging graves. Unfortunately, yesterday there was a slight mishap. The cemetary map indicating where people were buried was badly marked, and the backhoe carved directly into a coffin buried only a year ago. He had to look in to assess the damage, and came face-to-face with a badly-decomposed body. It was like out of a horror film, and he was fairly shaken up.

What shook him up the most, though, was not the physical visual, but the mental realisation that one day he too will be in a grave. All he saw was death, with no hope. So his instinct was to talk to a priest. I pointed out to him that his work is not part of death, really, but part of eternal life. His job is a ministry to the families seeking to live the rites of mourning, rites that are very important to process well the tragedy of the loss of a loved one. If we bury people, it is not to put them out of sight, but as a testimony to our faith in the Ressurection.

We prayed, and I also gave him some tips on how to deal with the after-effects of the shock (e.g. exercise helps a lot). I’d ask you folks to pray for him too.