Some years ago, I had to make an emergency trip back to Ontario. That’s where I was born and raised, where my parents were still residing. Mom had a series of health issues and was in medical crisis. She was facing the final stages of infirmity that are often twinned to 87 years of living. I found her alert, comfortable and talkative. She recognized the situation and we got to have final conversations. We acknowledged that her days were not determined by doctors, personal wishes or physical state. God held her life. While the situation called for decisions and action, I resisted the distraction of busyness. I chose to sit, talk and listen, to receive from God whatever He wished to give or take.
Many of you have walked this path with your loved ones. For others this is your future. At the bedside, I noted that death is not a solitary issue. It brings a host of companions. Physical struggle, fear, confusion, hope raised, and hope dashed, grasping for information, silence, family tensions, family support. Jesus sees all of this. When He cried at the grave of Lazarus, the tears were not just about death, but also about the grief and turmoil death ushers in. We were not meant to die. We were created for life. Our design was shattered by sin, but is now restored and glorified by the death and resurrection of Jesus. As Paul says – we do not grieve as others. We have cause for hope.
Mom and I got to talk about heaven – not just as a destination, but as a fulfillment of all that we were meant to be. The glass we look through is dim, hiding the brightness of what will be. But Jesus is the window through which we glimpse what God has in store for us. Since Jesus has conquered our greatest fear and threat, this is a temporary tension which will release into something beyond description or understanding. It will satisfy the deepest human longing.
The Christian ancients encouraged us to think about death, not in a morbid, fearful manner. We are to number our days and find wisdom through the accounting (Ps.90:12). Everyone has an appointment that they must keep. The wisdom gleaned is not just advice for wills, funeral planning or resolving relationships while we can. We are ready to live well only when we have considered our death.
I imagine myself walking down a narrow hallway which is the length of my life. I often occupy myself with the doors on either side. They are opportunities, adventures, responsibilities or wishes. I knock, open and close as needed. But one day I look up and note that the end of the hallway is closer than I thought. That realization is motivation to choose my remaining doors well. So, take time this week to talk with God about death. You might want to discuss the inevitable with your loved ones. Remember, this is not getting ready for death. It is preparation for life, now and forever. Look carefully. At the end of the hallway is a final door, and there is brightness behind it.
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