Why do people die "before their time"? If we, as people of faith, know they are going on to a place where every tear will be wiped away and there is no more suffering, why do we grieve them so much? Shouldn't we be happy for them? Why should someone fight an inevitable terminal illness and work so hard to stay alive even if life for them is so painful?
I thought a lot about these questions today. I definitely understand why we grieve. It is frightening and difficult to accept that someone we love so much, someone who is our life partner, someone with whom we are so intimately entwined is gone. Even people of great faith feel a deep sense of loss and pain. But what about the person who is dying?
God has made everything appropriate to its time, but has put the timeless into their hearts
so they cannot find out, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.
As I pondered it, the answer came roaring at me like a flood. Life is a unique and special gift from God. It's a one shot thing. We only get one chance. Even people who don't know God have an instinct to preserve their lives. I think it's because everyone understands life has purpose and worth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1721 says it best: "God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise." We inherently know we are here for a specific reason, even though we might not be so sure about what that reason is. I believe that's why we fight so ferociously to stay alive, even when the end is so close and we are suffering. The mind and the body want to live. We want that chance to know, to love and to serve.
I'm sure for many people death can be very scary, especially if you are not sure what comes next. I don't claim to have any special insight into that and the unknown scares me too. However, in the core of my being, the same core that will struggle to stay alive for as long as possible, I know one thing:
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. Job 19:25-26.
I am so blest to know that. It makes me want to know, to love and to serve that same redeemer. However, when it is finally time to go on, those of us who remain need to say with gladness and joy:
May the angels lead you into paradise;
Upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you
and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.
May the ranks of angels receive you,
and with Lazarus, once a poor man,
may you have eternal rest
Rest in peace, Mike.