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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Another brief visit with the Grim Reaper

Died. Dead. Buried. Passed. Departed.  All those words signify a removal of someone from the world as we know it. They are gone.
There are two questions that we always ask when someone we love dies:
Will I see them again?
I've discussed these questions with hundreds of people over the span of my own ministry, and I've witnessed the death of both my parents.
I was there at the moment for Mom.  She just quietly went out into eternity. Stopped breathing, and she was gone.
Dad's I missed by about an hour.  When I left the nursing home, he was barely alive, and when I returned (they called me), he was gone.  My Dad, who had been my best friend for many years, was gone.  Nothing left but a body, a shell. The "shell" was just. So. empty.
I had expected him to die for about two weeks, but Dad had the most amazing life-force I've ever seen. He just wouldn't die. It's as if he held on to life with both hands.
It's not that he wasn't a Christian, a genuine believer.  He was.  It's not he didn't expect to spend eternity in the presence of the Lord. He did. He just had that incredibly strong survival instinct.
So with all this strength and all his life-force, why did he die? Why?
The answer is in the first pages of the Bible, where God tells Adam, "Don't eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die;" the literal translation of  "you will surely die" is "Dying, you will die..." In other words, eating the fruit initiated a process that led to death.  Slow. Inexorable. Universal. Adam died, of course, and so have his descendants. in other words, the fruit of that tree was like a slow-acting poison, or a communicable disease that infected our first parents and was transmitted to us, their heirs, or the communication of a permanent genetic defect, so that our genes were infected by the results of the decision Adam and Eve made.
So we all die.  But it's not like the battery dies and then we just stop. It happens by degrees, as everyone who's reading this knows.  If you're a young person, you run, you play, you stay up late, you get up early, you eat what you want when you want, the hormones rage, you look forward to a  partner, a family, you wish you were in love, you fall into love, you fall out of love, and everything just goes so FAST.
But you are already aging.   I couldn't tell for myself at first.  Until I was about 35, I seemed to be just going along fine, but then I couldn't work out like I once had. I couldn't stay up like before, and I couldn't work as many hours in a week.  It was as if my battery was discharging.
And that's just how it is. Death is both an event and a process.  The process begins at or near birth, and continues until we are "departed." It's a terrible evil, frankly.  As we age, fear of death or resignation about its process informs everything in life, and although we all hide from it, we also acknowledge it. Medical insurance. Tests. Hip replacements. Medicare. Prescriptions. More prescriptions. When Dad died, his prescriptions filled up a small garbage bag when I disposed of them. But no matter what the docs did: surgeries, examinations, medications, Dad still died. And that's the point.  Nobody escapes.
The why? Everyone dies, because of the infection we all carry: The infection of death, that says, "You will surely die."
So we know that death is coming. But what then? Will I see Dad again? What about me? When I go, is it the end?

The answers are "Yes," and "No." I will see Dad. So that's yes. It is not the end. So that's no. Every part of the Bible that addresses the issues of eternity makes it very clear that death is not the end of existence.  Every one of us will continue to exist somewhere, forever.

The thing is, we can choose the place, but we have to do it before we die. otherwise there is no hope for us.

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