What do you do with the shattered remnants of a life abruptly severed? How do you go about managing the shards, which are all frozen in the promise they contained? Where are the instructions for handling estates and emotions that are left in the wake of a life vanished?
Death has always been real to me. Every time it visits, I find myself feeling cold on the inside, frozen, usually more than the time before. Death’s waters are numbing and freezing, often managed only by sluggishly groping for an anchor, a stay, in the midst of the flood. Living through tragedy is, for a time, a very base form of survival.
I wholeheartedly agree with celebrating a person’s life, and remembering them with love and joy. Memories are wonderful blessings, even if they are painful. I’ve learned that there is a purpose and even a beauty in the bizarre way my brain stores the memories that it decides to keep. But that point is not reached overnight. A life and all it’s memories aren’t created in a matter of days or weeks, and they shouldn’t be left behind that way either.
I suppose now would be a good time for me to give some context. A member of my home church was killed yesterday in a grilling accident. While I understand that accidents like that happen, the more astounding fact is that he died while performing a service he did regularly out of the goodness of his heart. He helped grill and cook for men’s cookouts, as a means to create an open space for men to gather and be in deep community with one another. A practical ministry with deep and lasting effects, an endeavor he enjoyed, and yet… Gone.
As I processed my initial shock and confusion with a friend late last night/early this morning, I was reminded of someone whose death was equally as tragic yet occurred in incredibly different circumstances. The two have in common that they were pursuing a deeper relationship with God–one in a ministry that he invested himself in, and the other in a heartfelt and desperate attempt to do the only thing he knew of to turn his life around.
Both of them were surrendered to God, doing the best they could with what He had given them and as they knew how, and I think God acknowledged that by relieving them of the sufferings and tragedies of this world. And while writing this… I find myself learning a truth I doubt I ever would have uncovered had it not been for this situation. I want to die pursuing my Savior, delighting in my Father, worshiping my God. It might go without saying, but let me explain a little.
I’ve heard people say they want to die in their sleep, to die peacefully, and I have often wanted the same. Long and drawn out battles with illness and disease are hard to bear, and the death that often follows even more so, with a relief of both pain and worry. Yet the grief, quiet and deep, is still there. Sudden illnesses and accidents are at least equally as difficult, with little and no time to prepare for such an event. Violent deaths entail a barrage of conflicting emotions, confusion and anger and despair all creating a deeply painful ordeal.
You can die in a lot of ways, and most of them aren’t painless. But both of these people–a man devoted man and a desperate teen–died in full pursuit of their Creator. I wouldn’t want to die any other way. I honestly believe there is nothing more beautiful than a life lived to the fullest, until its very end.
And Yet Beauty Remains…