By and large, death is a subject that has been pushed to the peripheries of social and individual discourse and reflection. Even with Covid-19 still claiming thousands of lives around the world, many of us, especially the young, have not extensively considered the possibility of our own death. Perhaps that is why it is said one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic. The thousands of people who die each day are a mere statistic. However, the death of an individual can be a road sign that halts and reminds us of where we are all headed. Interestingly, that individual need not be a person we know.
Last week while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a post that said one of America’s famous preachers, book reviewer and blogger had lost his son. The said son was only 20 years old! He was playing a game with his sister, fiancée and other students from the college he attended when he suddenly collapsed. Efforts to resuscitate him by those around – students, paramedics and doctors were all in vain. What a tragedy! His father penned down an emotional blog the following day announcing the death of his dearest son. In it, he said: “[y]esterday the Lord called my son to himself—my dear son, my sweet son, my kind son, my godly son, my only son.” I had never met the father, let alone the son. However, as I read through that blog, my heart was filled with grief and my eyes with tears. That was someone’s son. That was someone’s brother. That was someone’s friend, fiancée and bff. And, and, he was only 20.
One thing is evident and we all know this – it’s not a mystery: life is short and tomorrow is never promised. Our lives are but a vapour in the wind, here today and gone tomorrow. The question is whether or not we are ready to face that reality. We often live life as though we are certain of reaching 95 years of age. We focus on things that don’t really matter and spend most of our time trying to control that which was never meant to be controlled by us. What would change in us if we knew that this month, this week, today or even this very hour is our very last? Would we still hold that grudge against person X who wronged us a week ago? Are we still going to be angry at the person who broke a promise or our heart? What regrets would come to mind? What memories would flood our conscious? I do not know.
What shall we say then? If death lies before us, what ought we do now? I guess it is to make the best of our remaining – we have to redeem the time! Perhaps we should learn to cherish each moment. Perhaps when we meet our family members, friends, colleagues and people we know, we should learn to treasure those moments. Appreciate those people, tell them you love them, hug them (you might have to wait until the pandemic is over for this one haha), talk and listen to them because truth be told, any time you see someone, you have no guarantee whatsoever that you will see them again. All in all, cling to the things that you would be proud remembering on your deathbed.
Does the thought of imminent death bring fear? I am sure that it can. Especially if death is seen as the end of it all. Alas, it is not! Death is simply a passage from this life to the next. To life eternal. Death brings us in the presence of our creator to behold Him face to face. It marks the moment we leave the pain, sin and grief of this life behind us as we step into the glorious life with Jesus our Saviour. But for those not found in Christ, physical death is only the preamble to eternal death. The eternal separation from God.
Even though death is that entry point to the presence of God for those who believe, that knowledge does not take away the heartbreak and pain faced by those left behind by the departed. Losing a person, especially someone close is a very painful experience. A poem by Charles Spurgeon and modernised by Alistair Begg starts thus: “O death! Why do you touch the tree beneath whose spreading branches weariness finds rest? Why do you snatch away the excellent of the earth, in whom is all our delight? If you must use your axe, use it upon the trees that yield no fruit; then you may be thanked. But why will you chop down the best trees?” This is what it feels like often times. Death seems to take the very best from among us – and it hurts, tremendously. Perhaps, just maybe, this is just a reminder that we are made for eternal communion with those we love because honestly, a lifetime is just too short. If that be the case, then heaven may well be the place our hearts truly long for and death may be that road sign asking us if we will make it to that destination. Should the Lord tally, each one of us will face that last enemy called death. The time for that encounter is not known to us so it is wise that we should be prepared all the time. Therefore, our prayer should be: “Lord, when that day comes, grant by your grace that I may die well. Grant by your grace that I may die believing you as sincerely as I believed you on the day of my greatest faith and my greatest deliverance. No No No God, more so. More so.”