In a world where death is common, one would think that you would get accustomed to the reality that things die, people die, and that death is not a new concept. We go on with life, day in and day out, all the while knowing that our day to look death in the eye is just around the corner. The more we think about it, the more we become overwhelmed by the fact that there is NOTHING we can do about it. We try to prolong the inevitable through various means; kale smoothies, salads, staying away from the latest televised threat to our mortality, but alas, NOTHING will prevent our death. I’ve known death a lot in my family recently. Losing my 19 year old brother, 8 months prior to that, losing my father and just one month ago, losing my father-in-law – Death is no stranger. It has been an evil that haunts my soul to this day. We cannot escape.
Just yesterday on All Saints Day (a day where we remember those that have left this life before us), I had the opportunity to speak with a man that I’ve known for 5 years now. This man was tall in stature, direct in his conversations and overall, a very caring individual. I had the opportunity to speak with him for some time before church began, a conversation that lasted longer than any other previous time. We discussed woodworking and he showed me some of his recent work. These pieces were small and intricate, impressive to say the least. What was more amazing was the fact that he made these all with a handsaw! During our conversation I mentioned that my father-in-law had a band saw that he use to work with and made lots of crafts and small knick knacks for his children. A joy and excitement entered when we began sharing items that we’ve made out of wood; for me, a pen holder that I made in woodshop for my grandfather, a pine car that I made for an upcoming derby, and a few other items that I can still remember to this day. His face lit up as he saw my excitement as I shared some of my creations and how I made them!
As our conversation drew to a close, we heard the organ playing music in the sanctuary. He turned to me and invited me to come over to his house any time I wanted, so he could to teach me his trade. He then offered me different patterns that he had along with any of the wood that he didn’t already have set aside for his next project. From what I hear, he has his own lumber yard to work from. This brought joy to my heart as I thought of all the memories I could have with my sons and daughters and the projects we could make together. As worship began, I received a bulletin from the same man I just spoke with. The congregation sang their praises to God, confessed their sins corporately, partook in the Lord’s Supper as God’s children and quietly listened as the bell rang for each Saint that we had lost in our church this year, one of them being this man’s wife. She died on the same day as my father-in-law, so when I heard her name, it immediately reminded me of him. Death has now separated the mortal from the immortal.
A little more than two hours after my conversation with this man, I get a phone call from his son-in-law telling me that he was in a tragic accident. This accident took him from this earth to an eternity with Jesus in heaven. The weight of death is beyond measure. At this point, it weighs heavy on my heart as I know it does for many others. Death is our enemy, but it does not define us. Scripture tells us that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our LORD.” (Romans 6:23 NLT) As I think of the blessings that Jesus has in store for me and how death will no longer have any effect on me, I am comforted and freed of the weight that death consistently brings. I will again see loved ones and be in an unending presence of God’s creative love. I will no longer be fooled into believing that I am somehow the center of the universe. From where I see it, we can cling to the decaying things of this world or we can hold on to the victory that Christ has won for us on the cross. “As for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15 NLT)