We are all terminally ill. That’s the great irony of life, isn’t it? That upon birth we already have a death sentence. Our bodies, no matter how much green juice we drink, pills we swallow, miles we run, will all one day turn off like a flickering lamp that has finally burned out.
I value life, I want to burn out brightly in this life, but I am feeling death so much closer than before. I am realizing that each of us is walking blindfolded through a field of broken glass largely unaware that each step we take unscathed is a pure miracle. It’s only a matter of time before we experience pain, tragedy, and finally our own end.
Being surrounded by people who are actually infected with a terminal disease, that ravages their bodies, strips them of their strength, and subjects them to a life they have to fight proactively to live, puts quite a bit in perspective. Death is a companion we all have, but when you have been made aware of the sickness that is spreading in your body, you finally begin to acknowledge its presence more acutely.
Yesterday I hugged the sobbing shoulders of someone who just found out a dear friend died from cancer. I found out someone else lost a parent. A few weeks ago I deleted the name off our client list of a young woman who finally succumbed to the fury AIDs brings upon the body. Earlier this week I listened to the story of a little boy who passed from an unknown birth defect on Christmas Day.
Death is an unwelcome, hateful companion. There is no mercy, no regard for the days we treasure above others, no thought to how it will devastate families and friends and the world we live in. It is selfish and exacting. But it is also a teacher, as much as we hate the lessons it dispenses.
And I cannot end here, with death as the final word. I would be remiss in doing so.
I am a believer in the One who conquered death. Can we take a moment and truly, really, actually dwell upon the magnificent truth of what Jesus did by coming to this earth? That he didn’t die quietly, but his whole purpose reached a crescendo during the public spectacle of his death? Death was always his companion too. He said himself of his death “for this purpose I have come…” His whole life, he knew his purpose was to die. As he learned new skills as a young apprentice, as he invested in the lives of his nearest friends, as he spoke words of life to the masses; he knew his purpose was to die.
And why did he die? That “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
In Christ, death doesn’t change in form, but in power. It doesn’t lose its present sorrow, but loses its eternal sting. A companion that we will one day offer a final, forever goodbye.