The truth is, I'm not very experienced with loss.
Working with this film, New Life, has made me realise afresh that I live quite a sanitised existence. Coming into contact with death—in particular, the death of a loved one—has been more of a distant brush-by than an up-close-encounter.
Last year I spent some time in Ethiopia, visiting a very remote people group who live in the hottest region in the world. They survive in a breathtakingly harsh landscape and their experience of death is a repeated, personal thing. Everyone has family members or close friends who have died in childbirth, or of a preventable disease, or of simple malnutrition. Death is a part of life. It was both a confronting and a liberating revelation.
Because we, the scrubbed-clean, over-fed, keep-your-eyes-on-facebook people groups of the Western world, what do we know about death?
My uncle works for a funeral home. It is his job, and has been for many years, to collect, clean, and preserve the empty vessels of human beings who have left this life. He's very familiar with the hands-on processes required to take care of the flesh we leave behind. Sometimes it isn't pretty, sometimes it smells terrible, sometimes it is sad beyond words.
But knowing this reality, and being experienced at it, are two different things.
This film has evoked a lot of reactions from a lot of people. The director, Drew Waters, and lead actress, Erin Bethea (they wrote and produced the film together) are transparent about the fact that it was made as a tool to overcome grief—to equip people to make that step past loss and into new hope—to new life. At first to me it simply seemed like a worthy cause; now, after seeing the film again on the big screen with a packed cinema, and hearing the heart-felt responses of people afterwards, it seems like much more.
We need this—we need to be taught how to move past grief. We simply don't get enough practice at it in our mod-con comfy-cushioned culture. I need this. I need to know that I don't have to end up submerged in a life of half-happiness or half-healing after I lose someone I love. And I will lose people. There's that moment when someone who was there isn't anymore. That's true of every single person on earth.
I've encouraged people to see this film because it would make them think deeply and ask questions and open their hearts to healing. What I didn't expect, is that it would make me think deeply and ask questions and open my heart to healing. The surprise itself is probably a rich indicator of just how much I needed to do all of those things.
I'm very grateful for it.