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 15:53-54
Every once in a while – more often recently, it seems – I write a post about the transition point from life into eternity.
Early this morning, surrounded by family and enfolded in love, Rebekah’s sister Rachel (67) slipped from the burden of her failing body and into the liberating fullness and light of the life to come.
Sometimes, and in some circumstances, death is a shift that flows seamlessly at the end of a long journey like the natural next step. At other times – and this is one of them – I am overwhelmed at the enormity of it. Someone is alive for decades (and – in our experience – always), writing a complex and profound story that is epic in its reach… and then they are not; it is an abrupt and shocking fact that can be hard to process.
The epic story remains:
At the same time, and this is what I am writing about, the epic story that is a life remains. The love, the work, the evidences, the fruit, the reach, the passions, the beauty – the blessings that had life breathed into them for 67 years not only endure but they are written into eternity. One of the wonders of our creation is that every life is completely unique, and the fact of that life can never be replicated and is never lost.
I understand what it is like to lose a sibling, and my heart goes out to Rebekah – along with Roy, Joe, and Jesse – especially because this is the first time death has intruded into this generation of Alexanders.
But we do not grieve the same way, Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4, as people who have no hope. Because – and this is a concept I have explored before – death is not a period so much as a semi-colon. We are not at the end of our experience of what it means to be living beings created in the image of God, we are at a way station on the journey.
It is a difficult way station, to be sure, and it is a hard road at times. But this is a journey we do not have to take alone. This is the beauty of faith; not that God makes our lives easy or even numbs the pain, but that God is with us, accompanies us, steadies us, prepares us, and loves us with a love that not even death has the power to interrupt.
Writing in this way is how I process and some of how I pray. I trust that you, reader, as you look over my shoulder and share in this reflection, will be encouraged in your own journey.
- And may God’s generous and relentless love surround us all with the kind of peace that is beyond human understanding, and keep us rooted in the assurance that we are not alone. – DEREK