Sunday, May 06, 2012

Death after Life

Last night we kept vigil with Dad. We waited with him, praying our way through the darkness. Listening to his labored breathing, to the raspy silence. St. Paul poetically maps out the way of love: love is patient, love is kind. And thus it is in the coming death of Dad, we all are given moment after moment to extend loving patience and loving kindness. As we wait, so we love. 

Our life is put on hold, routine is disturbed, schedules are thrown into disarray as Dad dies. It's not a matter of resentment, but a reality to embrace. The capacity to rely on friends and family, to weather the mourning storm, it reveals the wisdom of how we've been trying to live. Death is a form of judgment, an unmasking of reality. Because it comes after life, death is the period which prompts us to look back on the sentence of our life.

The chaos of death can either be fueled by how we've been living, or it can be embraced. 

Dad's pending death has been prompting thankfulness. And perspective. How much grace is required to die well? The one that is dying, the ones that are mourning - we can give and receive grace, or resist it. I'm thankful for our family and friends who have poured out so much grace. Though we are sad, we are grateful. And it prompts me to consider: how much of life is preparation to die well? If I want to be well-loved as I die, if I want to be remembered for loving-well, then what must I sow now?

In sorting out what I think are my Dad's successes and failures, because I add grace to his life, I get a new understanding of his death and his life. The grace magnifies the successes and it transforms the failures. All that is good about Dad, I've tried to imitate; what I've judged in him, I've seek to overcome in myself. Death after life provides space to revisit my memories, to reconsider the gift I was given. Death after life is a moment to fill with grace and gratitude, or to sow it full of weedy bitterness and regrets.

My Dad is not dead yet. But we've been fully aware that he's been dying since a few days before Christmas Eve. As our life as ebbed and flowed these many weeks, we've thought a lot about the tides of dying. So fragile life is, so much is unguaranteed. How useless it is to rage against God at the unfairness of life. Death is what adds meaning to life. 

Ignorance of death prompts the wasting of life. Contemplation of death after life can add wisdom to your limited days and decades. Our reaction to death after life is often a paradox: we hate the death but savor the importance it adds to our life. It's often in death that we realize what we truly value, who we really are.

Death after life. Is a funeral something to avoid, for you? Is a death a tragedy to ignore or swiftly pass by? Or is the death of one you care about an opportunity for you to reinvest in your one life? What have I done with all the deaths of the ones I love? I'd like to think I've gained wisdom, wrestled with cynicism, struggled with despair, and embraced the uncertainty. And there is more yet to experience. I don't want to waste my Dad's death, or his life. Death after life, it's how our world works. So what work must I do now, and in the coming moments, to help my Dad die well-loved?

Why all this writing about my Dad, about death, life, love? Well, it's a way to sort out what's in my head and heart. And maybe a way to encourage others who have felt the sting of death. As one who follows in the way of Jesus, I work to live and love and prepare to die from a Gospel point of view. Jesus was a master wisdom-teacher, not only in his teachings but also in his life. To me, for my Dad, Jesus is believable, a trustworthy guide through reality. Death after life becomes good news.

In believing him, the crucified and resurrected Jesus, it plants new ideas about death after life. Death is to prompt mourning. But the promise of resurrection sparks hope. So it is with glad obedience to Jesus that I work to love my Dad well, both in living and dying. To choose love, in the way of Jesus, fuels my faith and hope in the resurrection, in the restoration of all things. Death after life: for me it has prompted and planted grace.

Thank you, Dad, for introducing me to Jesus, to living, and now dying.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Tim. You have so eloquently written how I felt while watching my Mom die. It hurts beyond your imagination, but at the same time, it is through them that we were taught to live, respect and embrace the love of Christ and then through their death, to realize the grace the Lord has blessed us with. Many prayers for your family......

Lon Stucky said...

I am glad you wrote this.