My wife’s grandfather passed away this week. He was 94. He was awarded not one, but TWO Purple Hearts for his time in the European Theater of the Second World War.
His wife passed away about twenty years ago. I remember this because she knew we were expecting our firstborn. We named our first two kids after this set of grandparents, so deep was their impact on my wife’s life.
We all work through grief in different ways. After we heard of Grandpa’s passing, my daughter wrote and sang the lyrics to this song. It was bittersweet to be a part of the collaboration in that song’s production. Reflecting on Grandpa’s passing motivates us to appreciate the time we have together.
On a nerdier note, I like to ponder the wonders of creation as worked out through the mechanics of evolution. If evolution is an engine, it would run out of gas without death. As the culture reflects, we understand that death before procreation removes the contributor from the gene pool. Recent lab work on self-replicating abiotic chemicals discovered that their “evolution in a vat” didn’t quite take off until they introduced a death mechanism.
As my friend Chris points out, we like to think that homo sapiens is somehow special, intrinsically worthy of God’s attention and love. Yet we see that we are no different than the animals. Life is a short burst of activity between birth and death. This knowledge of our finiteness – that our doom is inevitable – is maddening. (Before you rage at me too hard, I’ll let you off the hook. We are special, but extrinsically so. It is because of God’s calling that we are special, not because we are special that God called us.) In my own life, I have attended my fair share of funerals, but I know that more are coming. Death and taxes, right?
OK, so death is inevitable. Somehow we learn to cope. We comfort ourselves with the thought that, like Grandpa, at least they lived a rich, full life. It’s a trap! That way lies madness!
I have seen this madness, up close and personal. As a fifteen-year-old, I attended my seventeen-year-old brother’s funeral. Gone before he got a chance to really live. As a married man, my wife and I suffered the loss of a miscarriage. Gone before her first breath. This past summer, I attended my coworker’s funeral, only a year or two older than I. Gone before his children made it to high school. Death is inevitable. It is an equal opportunity terror, indiscriminate in its selection.
But we are not without hope. I can’t possibly do justice to this topic in such a brief post. I’ll summarize with a nod to the revelation of Scripture and in the Body of Christ.
How has death affected you? How do you make peace with the inevitable? What hopes do you hold on to, when you attend a funeral? What Scripture speaks to you? Who has ministered the comfort of presence to you in your moment of loss? Or dodge the poignant stuff, and nerd out on the science. The comment section is your blank page, write me a story.