First let me say, I intend to live a long and fruitful life, blessed not only with relatively good health, but relatively good looks, too. “You have not because you ask not,” right?
As people we often buy into these really negative stereotypes of aging as if it were a disease, a guarantee of fading beauty, bad health, inevitable weight gain, aches and pains, basically just a death sentence. I do this myself, wallow in the misery of it all….. and then someone in their 80’s will come along and start lapping me at the track. Quite embarrassing, especially since I am walking while they actually run.
So not only to I plan to live a long and fruitful life, blessed with not only good health but good looks, my mind is even open to the possibility of avoiding death entirely. It is quite unlikely, but God did once send a chariot for someone and then there is the rapture. I am just saying, God is full of surprises and we should not become so staid in our thinking that we just accept everything as completely inevitable.
I have been rather grimly dealing with death most of my life, having lost many of my family and friends, and later going into hospice work. I have developed a kind of irreverent gallows humor about death and dying. Don’t get me wrong, it can be very sad saying goodbye, and grief and loss is painful stuff. Death is horrible, but in a Christian sense it is not a “death sentence.” It is nothing more than a transition, a temporary separation.
Something I really appreciate about our Pastor, he has some cheerful fortitude about death and dying, too. Not long ago he was speaking of anxiety, of worrying, what if I get robbed? What if I get killed in the process?
“Well, then we will all miss you,” he said. I love that, balm to my soul! The simplicity in those words is so truthful, so authentic. As Christians we are not to be stressed out, filled with anxiety, feeling as if the bottom has fallen out of our world when death comes. It is simply “death” and Jesus Christ has set us free.
I really appreciate hearing such things, because we preach it, we say it, we believe it, and yet I don’t recall anyone actually walking it out for me. I have heard, “she went to be with the Lord,” amid much hand wringing and sobbing, and yet where is the joy? Or at least the bittersweetness of a temporary separation.
Now of course, when people leave me, I grieve and lament and plunge into self-pity. It triggers all my feelings of abandonment and powerlessness. However, “it’s the most awful thing ever -she went to be with Lord,” is a juxtaposition that doesn’t sit well with me emotionally or spiritually.
“She went to be with the Lord” is cause for celebration, comfort, reassurance. It is exceedingly good news. It’s better than winning the lottery or going on a cruise. She has slipped her hand into her Father’s, hallelujah!
I of course, cannot possibly expect my loved ones to partake in some cheerful fortitude and grand rejoicing when I pass, because it is quite possible they shall need to grieve, to feel some sense of distress. However, those who don’t know me very well, those who are not emotionally entwinned, rejoice! With exceedingly gladness, give me a delighted toast, a bon voyage, a proper Irish wake.
It is the Lord who has made it possible for us to laugh at death, who has removed the sting, who has overcome the world, who has invited us into His grand adventure, one that begins in the here and now. That is exceptionally good news, one that really is cause for a delighted bout of laughter now and then.