Death as semi-colon;

Two doves released to symbolize the passage...

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15

Usually a couple of skipped posts means travel. This week has been no exception. Tuesday afternoon Rebekah and I drove to North Georgia to attend the memorial service and burial for her aunt Ellen Garrison Alexander.

I was sitting in the old church when I realized that I’ve  attended a lot of funerals lately. It could be, as one person put it (indelicately), that I’m getting older and – consequently – know more “potentially dead” people. Or it could be that because my wife is a pastor we are therefore involved with more people at this particular stage of their lives.

TRANSITION: Regardless, I have been thinking about the transitional nature of death, and how close we all rest – at any given moment – to a closer interface with the eternal.

Shafe, Charles, George, Ruth (Alexanders) and Rebekah

Yesterday afternoon – there on a North Georgia Hillside by an pre-Civil-War church, wondrous fall colors accenting a blue sky and in the presence of as fine a cloud of witnesses as one could hope for – the funeral director released two white doves into the cool air.

The doves, who I imagine have done this before, cleverly avoided a Jack-Russell terrier (he knew what was in the basket), soared into the sky, and then circled back one more time before heading home.

The doves were released suddenly, and I believe I was the only person able to capture the blur of movement as they took off. But I think the picture does well in illustrating the ephemeral nature of the symbolic passage.

PUNCTUATION: Our lives, as Rebekah discussed in church this past Sunday, are a story. And there is always this invitation to live a good story. Aunt Ellen lived a good story, and she invited many other people into that story, too.

This week I have been thinking about the punctuation mark at the conclusion of the story, and I have decided that the last breath is best understood as a semi-colon. Followed by a dot, dot, dot….

I thought about this when our grandson, David Henry, was born October 16. The transition into life is hard work, traumatic, and such a huge change that the baby has to learn to do things such as breath, eat, and interact with a completely new environment. I believe this is what death is like.

Wednesday morning in north Georgia

BORN INTO NEW LIFE: Consequently, I think the best punctuation mark for such an event is the semi-colon. It’s been years since I attended a funeral or a memorial where a sense of finality had the last say. Maybe this is because I am so clear myself about my relationship to eternity.

What I’m saying is that I’m already living in eternity. I’m not waiting for something that is a huge question, because I’m already experiencing what it means to be unlimited.

Not sure that I’m putting the words right here. But I’m boarding a plane in ten minutes so I’ll hit “save”, then “publish.”

Unlimited – DEREK


  1. Derek,
    Your comments on life, death, then semi colon, is really the fit that seems to explain it well but simply. I really hear you. This is one year, today, that Erika has passed on with the semi colon. Thank you for your beautiful insights. It helped us get thru this special time. I will read your comments as we visit her resting place down at the Sand Key Beach waterside. tomorrow when her Peter and Lyssa will come over from Brandon to celebrate their Mother’s short life.
    Love and friendship to Rebekah and to you.
    Clara Witt and Erika’s family


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