A friend wrote me today about her profound sadness at the death of her parents in the last several months. My friend is grieving. What is particularly acute is the painful awareness that now the two people who had been with her at the very beginning of her life and through the decades that followed are no longer "on this planet," as she wrote. She is also the oldest of her parents' two surviving children, and she feels she is next in line for death.
I can relate to my friend's grief. My father has departed this life, but my mother, at 89 years of age, is still alert and active and a model for me of aging. As my sister told me today, my mother's doctor told her, "If you stop, you die." Like my mother, I intend to keep moving.
But I know that when my mother finally stops moving, because her body won't carry her any farther, and she joins my father in the life to come, I, too, will likely feel what my friend is feeling today: that keen loss of both my parents and the growing sense of the finality of my own earthly existence. Finality, but not futility.
Death is a staggering and sobering realization--and one few of us take note of, because we keep busy and distracted so much of the time. We don't like to think about final things, and yet final things, the certainty of them, may be just what we need to pay more attention to, for when we do note them in the right way--in faith--we live with a renewed urgency and deepened sense of appreciation for the fragility and fleetingness of this human existence.
As I ask ultimate questions--notably: What happens when my loved ones die? What happens when I die?--I face the heart of my Christian faith. I believe. I believe that when the end comes, I shall not fall into the dark empty nothingness, but shall rise from my grave in the light of God's love and in the power of the resurrection to that eternal bliss.
The end that I face, in faith, gives me the hope and joy I need to live with the tragedies, the suffering, and the losses of this earthly life.
Alleluia! Christ is risen.