On tasting death
The late night car accident on vacation with my family that totaled our trusty van. The moments spent with my grandfather before his potentially fatal surgery. The beloved dance teacher who died suddenly in a car crash. The pregnant friend who’s suffered three miscarriages and fears the same discovery daily. The other who received some troubling test results at an unexpected trip to the ER. The shootings that add to an impossibly long list of tragedies in the world.
Lord, what? What are You doing? Why are You allowing this? What pain, what sorrow, what gut-wrenching shock. How troubling it all is. But I think and I pray and I wait for some light. For a glimmer of hope.
“Truly,” Jesus said to His disciples, “there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matthew 16:28).
I’m tasting death. And it’s unsettling and surprising and fear-inspiring but—I’m grateful. Is that crazy to say? But I am. For from death comes new life. These tragedies remind me that death is NOT the end. This world is but a temporary home. And it seems unfair that anyone’s life should end in a sudden, tragic way. I want justice. I want time to prepare, to say goodbye. To set things right. I want comfort and safety. I’m desperate for peace. But here I am, living in reality. A reality where someone’s life can be taken from them in a most horrific way. But eternity will not be taken from us. God will not be taken from us.
Not long ago, I was sitting in church after daily Mass, taking some time to pray before I set off for work. I sunk comfortably into my pew—the one just behind the second column on the right, like always—when it happened. Two men dressed in dark suits came down the aisle, laboring under the weight of a wooden casket. They wheeled it into place, just a few feet from me, and opened the top to reveal its contents: the body of an elderly man, his head barely covered by a few wisps of hair and his leathery skin a lifeless shade. It startled me. There was death, before my eyes. I felt accosted by the sight, and I quickly packed my things to go. But why?
Try as I might, I am not living with an eternal perspective. Death is not to be feared, for eternity is what I’m made for. The joy of salvation is my desire. An unending hymn of praise as I gaze into my Lover’s eyes. In tasting death, I can more readily savor life, and my anticipation of the life to come surges in the most glorious way.
I’m learning. God my Father is patient with me. He teaches me to see. To see how my family’s car accident has made me grateful for my life in a way like never before. My grandfather’s brush with death has led me to treasure each moment with him all the more. My dance teacher’s passing has invoked in me a desire to take up ballet again. I pray for friends and mourning strangers with a newfound fervor, with a strange and surprising hopefulness. It’s all a mystery, it is. But it is so, so good. For behold, He makes all things new.