I received a call from my cousin today and then had to call my father and tell him that his youngest brother had died. My father is now the only remaining of three brothers who shared a remarkable history growing up in Colorado.
I can’t ever hear this news as an ordinary person. I always end up wearing my pastor hat. Steve would like me to come for the services. It would be an honor. I spoke at his brother’s funeral.
There has been too much death in our family. Aunt Betty, Uncle Erik, my brother Ken, my cousin Jim, Farmor and Farfar, my daughter Anna. No family escapes death. But it has struck some of us when we were much too young. It’s hard to imagine that “little Danny” was 83. He went out to mow the lawn and collapsed.
Life is fragile. As the psalmist says, we are like grass that bursts onto the stage in brilliant green and then suddenly is gone.
But life is not without its joys. I remember Dan and Bernice’s house from when I was very small – and their pet turtle, who clamped onto my finger requiring Dan to pry his jaws open with a screwdriver, is only part of the reason. I remember they made pizza when we visited. I remember driving out to watch airplanes land. I remember great gatherings of the whole family at their house – and a somewhat drunken hilarious game of softball. I remember the lengthy trains that crossed the field across their house, their lonely whistles sounding forth across a prairie evening. I remember his smile, his laugh, the twinkle in his eyes. I remember the silent strength. He came to my college graduation – though I was too sick with the flu to fully appreciate it.
We stand before the mystery of life with nothing but a promise, a promise that the God who called us into being is not willing to let us perish. We may turn to dust and ashes, but God is not through with his wondrous creation. God is not finished with those he has fashioned in love. God is not to be separated from those he has called his own.
Whatever exactly it may mean, we live in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Jesus was raised. We are joined with him. We share his life.
I do not know what exactly to make of such a promise. But it shapes life now. We do not despair. We grieve, but grieve in hope. Death may steal, but it cannot hold. We belong to another. Whatever that may mean.
It is simple to say we shall see him in heaven – though the Biblical promise has much more to do with living with God on earth. I just know, trust, believe, that he who is the life of the universe is our life too.
So, for now, comes the body laid in the earth. But it shall not last. Life shall last.