Mar 12, 2007

Death ...Where is your sting?

While researching a childrens book I'm writing...I came across thoughts and ideas which resonate deeply within me...yet feel so foreign set within the context of our modern world.

There is something touching about the Victorian Era family...hanging an ornate black crepe on the front door in remembrance of a relative who's passed away or...honoring the life they've lost by donning mourning clothes for extended periods of time... and by doing so...declaring to the world which goes on living , "I miss my mother...my brother is gone....my husband is no longer with me...my precious baby....." When looking back on these customs... as followers of Christ...they seem to stand out in their dark hues and morbidity...yet there's a purpose served by them....which hasn't been erased...only avoided and masked.

Since the beginning of time...families or friends would handle and dress the body of a loved one themselves and most times...the living quarters is where corporate and private grieving took place. Those grieving would spend much time with the deceased in very close proximity. A father could visit with his daughter before sunrise if so led...kiss her cheek and think thoughts that come during such moments. A boy could sleep besides his brother if he wanted to...slowly easing loose the tight grip of his best friend. The reality of death was ever present and not something to be avoided... but something to be embraced. Somehow...I'm thinking... facing the reality of death...made facing the realities of life more imminent too. As a woman sat with her husband...holding his hand...stroking his hair for the last time...she must have pondered how selflessly he served her in life or how she failed him and what she might have done differently...or would do differently if ever blessed with another marriage. As parents and grandparents grieved over the loss of their little boy...all the children in the family must have felt so loved and cherished...knowing they too...if taken... would be deeply missed. When death is real...living becomes all the more so.

As years pass...practices change. People go to hospitals...loved ones are taken away...strangers do the touching and viewings take place in odd buildings which nobody ever wants to step foot in again. Do we allow ourselves time to process...time to reflect...time to contemplate what we are being taught through death...how these lessons apply to life? By looking death squarely in the face...head on...close up...would we be forced to more fully consider our own life's purpose? It's preciousness. It's brevity. Is the enemy of our souls distancing us through the customs of the times so that we become numb, distracted or placated? It seems to me ....it's as if we somehow think that by keeping death at arm's length...we can actually avoid it as part of life. It seems to me...that by handling death at a distance...a growing temptation to distance ourselves from living life intimately arises as well.

As believers we know that to be absent with the body is to be present with the Lord. There is rejoicing as the Jordan is crossed. As those left behind...we mourn for our earthly loss while celebrating life in death because we know death was forever conquered at Calvary. For us, ultimately...death holds no sting. We are being bitten by a headless snake.

I understand the reasoning behind the symbolism of a cruxifix. We are to remember Jesus. He went to the cross for us. He was nailed there... for us. He died there.... for us. We are to remember.

This symbolism...though as touching and earnest as it might be.... does not speak complete truth to my heart. It is because Jesus has risen. He is alive and the tomb is empty! Many men died on crosses but only One ever lived to talk about it. It is rare to see "mourning clothes" at a Christ followers funeral because we know that.....although our brother or sister is no longer with us...he or she is alive with our Father who art in heaven.

It is good and right to by at the bedside of the dying...to bring comfort...receive comfort...witness God's grace at work...grasp hold of last words...it is good. It is good to have children there...watching and learning....living. The greatest lesson we can teach them by our example is.....

...in Christ...the utter ugliness and horror of death has no ultimate power. In Him, life has meaning. Remember. Remember. Remember.


Debbie and Co. said...

Your mom and I had this very conversation last night, albeit not as deep. I get you. And I think, for the first tiem I "got the whole thing" today.
Thank you!

singandrejoice said...

SOO true and powerful. Thanks for sharing your heart and reminding us that death, truly, has no sting!!