” You’ve lost so much weight since we last saw you” he said.
“Yes” she replied “I’m going to see the Lord and perhaps he wants me to be a “slim-fit” by the time I meet him”.
The cancer had ravaged her body, but her sense of humor, as well as her faith in Jesus still shone brightly.
A few days later, I heard she was gone, …dead, all that remained, the shell, which was once her body.
The Igbos of Southern Nigeria where I call home, have a philosophical affair with death as shown by some of the names they bear:
Onwuamaeze, (death has no regard for royalty)
Onwuekweikpe (death defies judgment)
Onwuzuruigbo (death is universal)
Onwukanjo (death is the greatest evil)
There is just something inscrutable about death!
Even the Bible says “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” 1 Corinthians 15:26.
However, for the believer in Jesus, death is not just an end but a beginning. It is the beginning of something infinitely better – every-time.
This makes all the difference in our grieving when we lose someone.
We teach children how to live well, but we rarely teach them how to die well. And yet this is within the purview of the christian life. Paul the apostle hopes (in Philippians 1:20 ) that Christ will be magnified in his body “…whether by life or by death”. Those apostles knew a thing or two about dying well and that was why many of them could look death in the face, and welcome it with grace, and boldness.
It was not because death was any more familiar to them than it was to the next guy, or to us today, but because they knew clearly what death is – a passport to an eternity spent in the presence of God.
Therefore “I shall not die but live to declare the goodness of God” was not their only mantra or prayer.
The dead cannot praise God (on this earth that is) – only the living can praise God around here. But yes, the believing (physically) dead can praise God in a way that no (physically) living people can.
Christians preach and profess the existence of a glorious eternal God to whom we go after our bodies are dead – yet we often live as if the only thing that matters is life on this earth. We pity people who die (in the Lord) as if their lot is ended.
No! We should envy them intensely, because we hope and long for what they enjoy already – the bosom of Christ. For them, as the hymn writer writes “...faith has become sight!”
We are not just physical bodies, and life on this earth as we know it, is only a little portion of what God has designed and destined us for. When a saint dies well, like the woman I watched being laid to rest recently, I am encouraged, and reminded that I am built for something more deeply profound than this portion of my human existence.
My prayer is thus:
Lord don’t just help me live well – please help me to die well.
Adieu Mrs Kim. I miss you. But I will see you someday!