One part of being a pastor is visiting the sick.
The other day I went to see someone in the CCU (Critical Care Unit), and as many times as I do it, I still feel nervous entering that particular wing of the hospital. A profound sense of gravity marks the CCU. People are often fighting for life down that hallway. They are banged up. They are speechless. Tubes and monitors and various contraptions surround them. Doctors and nurses speak in whispers. Time seems to somehow simultaneously slow down and speed up there.
Visiting people in the CCU sobers me every time. I am reminded of the frailty and brevity of life in general and of my own life in particular. I often think to myself “this is where it all ends.” Every happy moment, every hallmark of life, every birthday, every vacation, every party, every single day is leading up to this day, the day when life and death meet.
That may sound like a depressing thought, but the ancient sage, Solomon, commends such occasional thinking. He writes, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2).
So in Solomon’s mind, if you had to pick between going to a party and attending a funeral, for the sake of wisdom, you should go to the funeral. A funeral will better prepare you for life than a vivacious party. That’s a surprising, perhaps ironic truth.
Of course, Solomon does not require us to live in the house of mourning, constantly wringing our hands with grief and anxiety, but he does consider it wise to go to those hard places from time to time to be reminded of the temporary nature of this life.
So the next time you are asked to enter a sad situation, go. Go for the sake of your neighbor, and go for the sake of your soul.