In recent days and weeks, a dark ribbon of strangeness has circled our lives–Jerry’s and mine, (as it has some of yours) but then perhaps it is not strange, for now we are older, and is it not common among older folk that friends and relatives suffer and sicken, even to the point of death? But today came word of the fatal accident of a younger one, a grown child of a friend of ours, and while we were in the Bay Area last week, we learned of one of Jerry’s young colleagues who has announced to his church that cancer has invaded his lymph system. Yesterday drove the funeral procession of a minister who long years ago was a part of our church in Garden Grove; next Thursday is a funeral for a minister we have known for decades, and on Friday a memorial service will flare tribute to one of our dearest friends, also a minister. For years he and Jerry served on church organizational boards. They assisted with the production of innumerable conferences, seminars and evangelistic meetings. Our children attended youth camps at the same time, and more than once our families played and vacationed together.
Too soon, it seems, our journey here is over. With notable exception we shrink from death, sparing our minds and emotions, guarding our health, obeying the doctor, swallowing our pill, hoping to push away the inevitable. It’s a strange thing, this reaction to death among believers, for do we not expect life after death to be beautiful, to be perfect, to be lived in the presence of God? Perhaps it is the going, the crossing, the wide river; and though we have faith in God and in His Word, there is decided mystery that envelops the traveler. “Aloneness” beyond comprehension is his wrap, his tightly pulled cloak. Contrary from birth and its silver promise is this leaden finality, the finality of death. Neither in the dying room, nor in hospital chambers are balloons or banners or celebration. Elated faces are not seen. “Death is never pretty,” one of my wise sons reminded me yesterday.
Business. Is our business finished? Should we not live every day so that at the morning and at the evening we may ask The Question; Am I ready? Are my affairs in order? For be assured, there is no defeating death, there is no holding back the pale. No bloodied limb can stay his progress, no strength or brawn will prevail. With sure hand, he raps the door of both the pauper and of the king. Pray our leaving is with joy.
There is a strange sort of separation and quiet as a person lies dying: I’ve been near a few who wrangled with death. Giftings are gone. Power has eluded the hand. As though encased in thickened glass, the leaving is done. The earthy is finished. The eternal is.