It’s been brought home to me – again – this week just how fragile life is.
I say “again” as I’ve actually known since I was about 10 years old how fragile things are, and how quickly it all ends. But today there’s a difference.
Up until today I’ve been fairly certain of the spiritual standpoint of every person I’ve known who’s passed away. Today I went to say goodbye to a very dear friend that I don’t know about.
Last I heard, this friend was pretty pissed off with God actually. I won’t list everything, but the last blow was cancer. The big “C”. Doctors have estimated it will only be days.
It’s had me thinking all day. Hence me writing at 1:40am instead of sleeping I guess.
This friend – I’ll call her Helen – is actually more of a second mother to my wife. She’s been to our home for scrabble evenings and dinner and the night I proposed to my wife she was staying at their home.
Helen’s been an amazing life. And I mean she’s been an amazing life, not just had one.
She’s come back from adversity repeatedly and raised amazing children and seen grandchildren born and begin to grow. It’s not fair that she’s leaving right now. But then the World’s life isn’t fair.
The World doesn’t play fair. It sends curves to people who we see don’t deserve it and easy walks to those who should be at Gitmo. We read about people thrust every day into situations where they had too much too soon and died as a result. Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour-Hoffman, and a myriad of other stars whose lives were cut short because they couldn’t handle their success.
But Helen’s life has been cut short after enduring so much and reaching a place where she could finally begin to live freely. Free from a bad situation, loving kids and a fresh start.
How do you say a farewell to someone in Helen’s position? Especially in mine? I pray for her, I hope she has found peace with God, and I told her today I wished her Peace, but I “blinked”. The room was full of family and friends and it was “inappropriate” to mention God. So I didn’t.
I truly pray He will or has already sent someone across Helen’s path who can communicate Him to her. As I saw her today I knew I couldn’t. I also feel I should have.
I sit here tonight contemplating my own Life in Jesus and I wonder what it actually means. My life has to be more than the sum of a few blog pages and articles, more than a few sermons and private chats.
But I choked at the last moment.
Life I can handle. I can even deal with death, the thought of my own anyway. But when I’m confronted with someone in Helen’s position I find myself paralysed. I can talk to the fit and healthy. Tell them to get themselves in order before it’s too late. But asking someone if they have got in order at that point where it really is the last time is too much for me – mainly because I wouldn’t have the first clue how to deal with it if the answer was “no”.
So what if the answer is “No”? I tell myself I don’t ask because then they may have the chance from someone else, after all, it does say that nobody will be condemned if they never had the choice until they make one.
But I’m kidding myself.
We all are. This isn’t self-flagellation here, it’s an insight into the human existence. We don’t deal well with death for one simple reason: God didn’t design us to.
We’re designed to live, not die. To have Life in abundance. Yet we perish in a mortal skin-suit. I heard someone describe healthy living as “the slowest possible rate of progression towards the grave” recently. I laughed at the time, but it’s true. From the moment of conception our days are numbered. Most of us just want it to be a really BIG number.
It wasn’t for Robin – my brother. He was not quite ten when he died 30 years ago. Helen isn’t “old”. Her spirit until today meant I had to remind myself her children are my generational peers, not her. But today she was tired.
I don’t know what I’ll say to God about today when I meet Him face to face. I trust He’ll say “I forgive you” to me. I rely on that trust; that faith is what keeps me going. At the end of it all, a big part of our expression of Faith comes down to being prepared to be a fool for Christ.
It’s life and death being foolish and inappropriate for Jesus.
I still have a way to go on that road, but I hope it’s something that I’ve set off.
I hope I’ll get more chances to be foolish in the future. To ask the “inappropriate” question.
To make the difference between Life and Death for someone.