When you tear open the plastic that body bags come in, they smell like a fresh liner of an old-fashioned above-the-ground swimming pool. Every time I open one, I take a big whiff and say that out loud to whoever I’m working with. I can’t help it! It reminds me of my childhood days swimming in the Russell family pool. I spent a lot of time in that pool and I remember what a pool lining smells like.
Every time I put a deceased person’s body in a body bag, I remember a patient who told me how filthy rich he was. Those were his words – not mine. “Filthy” rich he called himself. He was a billionaire.
That filthy rich patient had his meals delivered on china instead of paper plates. He had Egyptian cotton sheets delivered daily to his room. He was visited every shift by men in suits who wanted to make sure his nurses were treating him to his satisfaction. (We were.)
One day that filthy rich man cried. He cried in the middle of being cleaned up. When I tried to console him, he got angry – not at me, though. He was angry about his circumstances. He told me about how hard he had worked, how long he had saved, how diligent he had been about investing so that at the very end of his career, he could just enjoy himself. He told me he could pay cash for a house in any zip code he wanted, but now found himself unable to clean himself or even turn from side to side in the bed. He felt humiliated, and I felt really bad for him.
He was no longer in control. But what he didn’t realize was that, he was never in control to begin with. And neither are we.
So, why do I think of this guy every time I have to put someone in a body bag? Because not long after the day that filthy rich man cried, he passed away. We put him in a one-size-fits-all plastic body bag that smelled like a swimming pool liner that day. He was a bigger guy, and when we zipped up the cheap plastic zipper, it tore the bag, and we had to start all over with a new cheap plastic body bag.
You’re likely wondering what in the world my point is by now, right?
It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have, how well known you are, who your parents are, how much money is in your checking account, how many square feet your house is, who you know, what you know, how good looking you are, how intelligent you are, what zip code you live in, what kind of car you drive, how tall you are, how skinny you are, how much you’ve donated, how many times a week you worked at the soup kitchen, how big your house is, what your title is, how many buildings are named after you, or how impressed you are with yourself – You’re going to get delivered to the morgue in the same cheap, plastic, easy-to-rip, lousy zippered body bag as everybody else.
There’s no Egyptian cotton body bags for billionaires, and I believe that rich man gained a poor man’s perspective that day. In the middle of his sad circumstances, he just seemed to finally get a fresh perspective that made him realize that the things he had always thought mattered, really didn’t after all.
I’ve often wondered what he would have done differently, or how he would have thought differently, had he gained a clearer perspective sooner in his life.
So yeah – body bags remind me of swimming pools. But they also remind of billionaires and homeless people I’ve had the privilege of caring for, and the fact that none of us is really any better than the next, and none of us is ever going to ask to see the balance of our checkbook when we know the end of our life is near. It’s going to be the clearest perspective we’ve ever had.
“The rich and the poor have a common bond, The LORD is the maker of them all.” Proverbs 22:2
Enjoy this short video of Francis Chan……