I do not wish to be morose at this Easter time – and I don’t think I am in chocolate withdrawal – but there does seem to be a lot of death around. I noticed it at the First Aid course I attended at Westfield House on Friday. Now it was a very good course with the trainer humorous and knowledgeable and we were reminded of so many things to do to keep things (especially the heart) going. But three things stuck out for me. The first was the ‘best piece of kit that has come in a long time’ – the defibrillator – and we were shown how it is used, what it is doing, and told some statistics of survival rates in countries which have one on almost every street. (Impressive!)
The second was sadness at our world when the trainer brought out a tourniquet and said it was ‘off the naughty step’ and health organisations were now advising its reintroduction in light of the terrorist attacks and the mass traumas they produce. And I found myself thinking about whether I should buy one to have in my pack in case someone needs it. And I found that thought sad.
The third was that I had no recollection at all of ever being told the signs of death particularly from cardiac arrest – and yet this information has been part of first aid training for the last 10+ years. I have attended numerous first aid courses over the past 10+ years and yet there was zilch, zip, nuting in the grey matter about this information. And I wondered whether I, like so many people, really want to deny death – block it out of my consciousness. Death is scary at times.
The causes of death and death itself remain all around us. On my travels on Monday night I came across a traffic jam caused by a car fire. I pulled over, put on my police chaplain’s highvis and walked up to see whether I could be of assistance. The fire brigade said, ‘No’. (I was relieved.) The car was abandoned (on an A road!) and no one was injured and the fire brigade didn’t need anything from me. We switch on the news and there is Sri Lanka last Sunday. How many of us knew the name Lyra McKee before last Maundy Thursday? We wake up in the morning and there is news of the death of a member of the congregation or of the community, a family member or a friend. And every doctor’s visit whispers or is blunt, ‘you are mortal’.
And because death is what it is, those who use it or who threaten to use it have a power that seeks to control life, living, and us. World history is often the story of one group’s control over life and death being attacked or rejected (often called a revolution) by another group. I’ll kill you. Not if I kill you first. And into this world came the followers of a crucified Jewish carpenter who claimed, ‘Christ is risen!’ and who seemed ‘uncontrollable’ because they did not fear death. There is a reason for the phrase ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ not because Christians want to die or look for it – we can flee when persecution comes – but should we face death then in Christ we know that death has no power left – the sting is gone – and that truth, that love, Jesus’ sacrifice and presence drives away fear. And what is left is life – in all its fullness. God’s first aid truly keeps us going. G