As I write this post, it’s the last day of July and I must say that death has been on my mind all month. This is the month when my mother passed away in 2001, also a very close friend, Marilyn; our beloved dog, Holly; and now there are two more to add to the list — our pastor’s wife, Lynn; and our dear friend Jalan’s son, Dylan, at the age of twenty-five.
The death of Lynn this summer brought these matters back into focus for me. She’d had a return of cancer (like my mother) and did not even have as long as we’d expected. The moment of death was also delayed by a few days, making it really hard for the family.
But in the midst of this, God was speaking in my regular readings of the day.
Dying and dissolution continue to strike fear in me. Death itself does not. Ten years ago if somebody had offered me a vigorous, healthy life that would never end, I would have said yes. Today I think I would say no. I love my life as much as I ever did and will cling on to it for as long as I can, but life without death has become as unthinkable to me as day without night or waking without sleep. Frederick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, pg. 172
We find by losing. We hold fast by letting go. We become something new by ceasing to be something old. This seems to be close to the heart of that mystery. I know no more now than I ever did about the far side of death as the last letting-go of all, but I begin to know that I do not need to know and that I do not need to be afraid of not knowing. God knows. That is all that matters.
Out of Nothing he creates Something. Out of the End he creates the Beginning. Out of selfness we grow, by his grace, toward selflessness, and out of that final selflessness, which is the loss of self altogether, ‘eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man’ what new marvels he will bring to pass next. All’s lost. All’s found. And if such words sound childish, so be it. Out of each old self that dies some precious essence is preserved for the new self that is born; and within the child-self that is part of us all, there is perhaps nothing more precious than the fathomless capacity to trust. –Ibid, pg. 174
This is what we can do as Christians — and we do — trust. Because of that trust there’s a deep sense of peace that no one can take away from us. It’s a foundation to our lives that covers all areas — death, life, fear, disappointment.
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created things, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 8:37-39 [NASB]