I was looking through my laptop files for a photo to go with my blog essay. The writing of the essay is easy for me, but finding a photo to visually represent what sometimes are very abstract concepts is hard. I am fairly literal, so it takes me a good while to come up with something.
So I was looking and looking at many photos I’ve taken since moving to Georgia 12 years ago. It seems like just yesterday, but it’s in fact over a decade since I got here. Time flies.
I noticed after a while in looking at photo after photo, that a lot of the people I’d taken photos of are dead now. More than a few. Most of them were elderly, but one sweet little boy I’d had in school died very young.
I pondered this for a few days.
Meanwhile, I received a Facebook message from someone I didn’t know but I knew her name. That is because I knew her dad. We never met in real life, but he was stuck with my writing ministry and occasionally corresponded. I had not heard from him in a while. She was messaging me to let me know he had died after a struggle with cancer.
We never really know what kind of effect we have on people. In real life or online, we affect the fellow believers, like a rock plunked into a pond. The daughter wanted me to know that he expressly wanted me to know of his passing. This was impactful to me.
Meanwhile, my father had passed away three years ago, the first significantly close-to-me person to leave this earth and fly toward the final destination. He was 81. My mother is 80. Her sister is 85. Other aunts are over 80. Life might be long on this earth, but it’s not eternal. I read the obituaries regularly now.
I used to think that was funny, or weird, or morbid, when my relatives did it. Now I’m their age when I saw them do it and I do it too now. I’ve turned in to my grandmother.
You get older and you realize that something you remember or that happened was not ‘just a few years ago’ but a few decades ago. I have more than 5 decades under me. I have active memories that span 55 years. I remember when the Beatles played on Ed Sullivan in February 1964. The men who walked on the moon. The 1968 Democratic Convention riots. Civil rights marches, hippies, burning bras, openly gay people in the streets for the first time, Reagan getting shot, Berlin Wall coming down, the US Hockey team beating the Russians at the Olympics, American hostages released from Iran, OJ Trial, 9/11, Arab Spring, and so on.
It really makes you wonder about the brevity of life. The Bible tells us it is a vapor. (James 4:14). When you get older, you begin to realize just how vaporous life is.
To that end, I recommend a book I’ve just finished reading. It’s Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End, by David Gibson. The book blurb says:
What if it is death that teaches us how to truly live?
Keeping the end in mind shapes how we live our lives in the here and now. Living life backward means taking the one thing in our future that is certain—death—and letting that inform our journey before we get there
Looking to the book of Ecclesiastes for wisdom, Living Life Backward was written to shake up our expectations and priorities for what it means to live “the good life.” Considering the reality of death helps us pay attention to our limitations as human beings and receive life as a wondrous gift from God—freeing us to live wisely, generously, and faithfully for God’s glory and the good of his world.
Here is another resource: an article titled
However, in today’s world, there are practical, earthly matters that intensify the sting of death for those left behind. There are stings still related to death. Burying a loved one can be a complex and confusing matter that feels like an intrusion in one’s time of grieving. The good news is that there are several ways to take care of these practical matters surrounding death ahead of time so those you leave behind will be more able to mourn in peace.
The good news of Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection mans that we do not have to live an eternal life in punishment in hell. We who have repented and believed on Him will live forever in bliss, joy, and glory with Him. He has imputed His righteousness to us, and when God looks at us, He sees us through His Son.
Our death is simply a transition from one state of being to another. And I’m glad that we will not mourn in heaven, and He will wipe all tears from our eyes. Our joy will be complete.
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (Revelation 14:13)