As many of you are no doubt aware by now, Joy and I have spent the last weeks walking through the valley of the shadow. First, my grandfather passed into the Kingdom of God the Friday before last, then Joy’s Aunt Marilou’s long struggle with breast cancer ended last Tuesday as she passed into the arms of Jesus. To have both deaths so close together has been both shocking and emotionally draining. Yet, it has provided an opportunity, for me at least, to examine death once again.
Death is a universal constant. We all someday will die and we will die alone. Death is a mystery. We never know when or how we will die and some spend their entire lives trying to avoid death or to prolong their life. Death stands as a reminder to each of us that at the end of all things we are truly equal despite whatever great accomplishments we manage in life, no matter how much wealth or power we acquire, there is no way to stop death, in the end it comes for all of us.
Yet as Christians we stand in a unique position, we know what happens after we die. We don’t fear death for we know what awaits us. Jesus himself promised that he had gone ahead of us to prepare a place in the father’s house for us. More than that, Jesus came back from death proving that death holds no power over him or us. It is because of this that Paul can exclaim in 1 Corinthians, “O Death where is your sting, O grave where is your victory?” We often forget that because of Jesus we do not have to fear death, it is merely one more river we must cross on the way home. I’m reminded of one of my favorite passages from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: Pippin the hobbit asks Gandalf the wizard about what happens after life end if it is just over and Gandalf answers, “End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.” The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it. White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.” To which Pippin responds, “Well that doesn’t seem too bad.” And Gandalf smiling says, “No, no it isn’t.”
Death has visited our house these past weeks. He took from Joy and I those we love who taught us much in life and made us the people we are today. Yet, we recognize that for both my grandfather and Joy’s aunt they stand now in a far better country, eagerly waiting for the day of our reunion. I’m with Pippin—no, that doesn’t seem so bad not at all.