So many of the people I love are dead: Papaw Earl, Nana Papaw Shelby, Granny, Aunt Karen, Uncle Roddy, Angie Good, Father Michael. . . I have to stop or the listing will consume my day in happy memories of people I love and melancholy that they are not here yet. We will meet, but I miss them. God has taken them in death, a severe mercy, but will restore them in life, absolute love.
I do not love death, but I love so many of the dead.
When Halloween arrives, I am happy. Thanksgiving, the best of secular holidays, and Christmas, the jolliest Christian day, are coming and I will wallow in both feasts. Halloween is its own good and if the culture has appropriated this religious day, then they are welcome to do so. Christians are not in peril here, as we are in Syria and other places, and so can afford the loan!
Here is a glad thing about Halloween. We laugh at death, because death has no power over us. If the devil, a proud spirit, cannot stand to be mocked, then death is a fact that when faced is no longer so fearful. Death is not yet, but coming and when it comes then I hope it finds me ready.
I am not talking about waiting until death and then being happy. Christianity says we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” At times, the dead seem near and this is happy. Sometimes I go to bed and think of the prayers and praise that ascend to God all the time from this growing family and friend circle with God. They are alive and see goodness, truth, and beauty face to face.
Every moment is thick with not just their lived past, as when I hold a note Nana sent me that helped rescue my marriage, but their lived present. When I am at church singing, I am adding my small voice to their great voices. When I kneel to take the bread and wine, I am getting a foretaste of the great feast where they are already seated ready for the jollification.
I do not love death, but I love the dead, because they are not truly dead. They are more alive than I am. I am dying, they are not just living, but growing more alive by the moment. I am heading for the grave, they have passed through the grave to God. I wonder, they know so they can be full of wonders.
If Adam and Eve had not fallen short, what would have happened? Who can know? There would have been no death as we experience it. There would have been no gratuitous pain, but perhaps (just a maybe), the cycle would have been a bit like it is: birth, life, born again, life, born again . . . again. This cycle would not have been reincarnation, but deepening. God would have become fully human in a different way, no cross, but full participation in human things. Death without sin would be passing from life to better life and while nobody would look forward to the labor pains, we would embrace them as deepening us. Pain of a kind can bring gain . . . Growing pains are not the horrific, gratuitous pain of diseases.
Probably not, probably something better would have happened.
This much I know. Death is the last enemy, because death is the last time God will have to hide. Death is the moment where we have said “yes” or “no” to God . . . And God honors every “yes” and every “no.”
Death for those who have said “yes” rips away the cloud to our vision so necessary to keep our reason from being overwhelmed. At death, we know. We see all the truth we can. And so I do not love death anymore than I loved the pain of watching our babies being born, but I loved our babies (and still do all grown up!).
I love those who are dead . . .