Sunday, November 18, 2012

Embracing Death

I'm not trying to be morbid, but to be completely honest I'm drawn to the topic of death. As a child the idea of it haunted me, left me so frightened that death would too soon steal me away. I discovered early on in my teenage years that Ecclesiastes 3 would be a defining chapter in the course of my life. I take to heart that there is a purpose to everything that God allows, even death which is so often misunderstood. I never knew how real those words 'a time to die' would become when my father suddenly was gone. A time that really tests what a person claims to believe. Death brings sadness, shock, longing, finality, uncertainty. It's taken me several years to sort out my feelings, to ease the fears. When I started this blog it came natural to me that Ecclesiastes 3 would be at the heart of my writings and looking back at many of my posts I can see that people would think my mind is often on things of sadness and grief. I confess that is often where my mind is at, but not because I want to be sad or negative but I truly seek to learn from reality that these topics play in our life. It is through these times I truly find the answers I seek about God. In order to find answers one must be prepared to embrace the situations through which we find resolution.

Several weeks ago these verses struck me through our Bible Study book:
It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
 Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
Ecclesiastes 7: 2-4
King Solomon, the author, reveals that it is helpful to think about death. I took from this passage that God uses death and sorrow to stir our hearts, not towards anger, but toward Him, to his purpose. That there is a beauty and gladness of heart to be discovered through pain and sorrow. It shouldn't make sense, not when in our humanness we want lives of safety, health and happiness.  It isn't easy to take pain as a gift, to understand the ways of Jesus above our own. This past year I have seen so many, loved ones and community members, deal with loss, disease and suffering and am so often left wondering 'Why'? Giving thanks in all these circumstances? For what? It doesn't make sense. King Solomon was that wisest man in the world. He prayed that God would give him wisdom and he was abundantly blessed with much knowledge. Only the more wisdom he imparted the less he failed to heed his own advice and spent much of his life apart from God. In the end he discovered the best knowledge of all: that apart from God, life was meaningless and empty, it didn't make sense. And so, when I can't make sense of life and its' futility I can only take his insight to draw myself nearer to the reasons of God. Death and it's eternal value leads me to making sense of life.

Yesterday I joined my husband in saying a final goodbye to his Grandpa who is lying there waiting for Jesus to take him home. I dreaded going at first because who really wants to face those final moments. My humanness wanted me to stay dis attached because it's hard to see death and not be taken back to my father's deathbed. Those verses above though reminded me that it would be okay, I would lay it to heart. My heart reached for the hearts of his children saying goodbye, for Grandma at his bedside. It's hard to say goodbye to a dad no matter what age or stage in life they are at. In the quietness of the room, God gave me a gladness of heart, for I began to understand what a beautiful picture was before me. I cry as I write this for I am truly thankful to have been in that room, to see  and feel the peace that was present. There he laid, a man with a lifetime of memories and days behind him, with only one purpose ahead: to join the Heavenly angel band. A man just as human as you and I, not a saint who has earned his way to Jesus, no more deserving of eternity than any other, yet he in his weeks of pain and suffering discovered the secret of letting go of all the temporal things of life and was ready to see the light of Eternity. Who could want anything else in the face of death. I could see on the faces of everyone that despite the sadness of goodbye they are passing him on to Eternal peace and freedom, to the One who truly loves him more than the love we earthly families can bestow. I expected beeps and monitors, and found that everything was turned off. There was no watching a screen. It would've been meaningless for all that matters now is waiting on the Lord. It was joy to sing at his bedside knowing that soon will come praises and songs we can only imagine. I came away ways from there feeling blessed by the experience. There was no fear, no shock. It was different from not being able to say goodbye to my Dad. It took much longer to find peace that way. We would all want to face death peacefully with loved ones  by the bedside, but we do not have the choice. I can say though that through two different experiences of goodbyes I have learned peace and meaning through both. No matter the process we are as grass, as Isaiah claims:
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.
Isaiah 40: 7/8
God is the only one that remains. Let's seek him while he may be found. Solomon, despite his often negative view of life because of his neglect to heed to wisdom God gave him; encourages us to enjoy life by seeking purpose and meaning of life through God. Saying goodbye at a loved one's bedside without the hope of eternity would leave no reason to find meaning in life. It would feel useless. Solomon ends Ecclesiastes with this conclusion:
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
Ecclesiastes 12:13
So maybe it's not that morbid after all to embrace what death has to teach us, for if we seek the answers while we live then with confidence we can conclude that though we may not understand all mysteries, pains and struggles of life; we can believe that God takes us through them for a reason. That He may love and breathe us into his arms. I remember sitting as a young girl in a funeral home beside my dad, where he heard the song ''Safe in the Arms of Jesus" for the first time. We came home and he sang that song for weeks on end. He found gladness of heart in the house of mourning. Today I'm thankful for the reason to believe that he is Safe in Arms of Jesus. Jesus, who is ready every moment to receive more into his fold.
Grandpa is still breathing and I pray that his moments of slipping into the arms of Jesus will be moments of peace and that the Angel band will break into harmony.


  1. Absolutely beautiful and powerful words, Christina! I was there the other day with Colin and I found great beauty and blessing in the songs he was so quietly singing from his deathbed. Someone noted that he was "singing his way to glory". I am so excited for the day when he can sing in that great choir at the feet of Jesus, though his presence will be missed here! I thought of you when I knew you guys had gone - I wondered how much this would bring back other memories for you. I am glad that you found great peace in it.

  2. Christina - this was just beautiful - i am praying for your whole family thru this journey - you have such an amazing strength and such an understanding of life and death that you will be a great support to Wayne! - you are so talented with the way you use scripture and words to express your thoughts - just beautiful - with love and prayer for you - colleen