Mortality Meditations

Death was a terror. At night, he mocked a little boy who, unable to sleep, weeped at the thought of being stolen away before becoming a jet pilot. He tried to swallow a drowning teen into the darkness of the Deep, through the boil of crashing waves. He declared himself in the rapid beeping of heart monitor alarms. He lended extra weight to human hands that pressed a rabid man hard into a hospital bed, strapping his arms down as one does to a madman. He ripped into that man’s mind: hallucinations of falling backwards into rainbow tide pools over and over and over and over while a monstrous crab shrieked, “YOU’RE DYING, YOU’RE DYING. IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.”

Someone yanked me from those hallucinations. My world was changed. I’d passed between physical and metaphysical dimensions, then got spit back out again. Deaf, I heard only the hallucination’s echoes, while all around me family and doctors strategized for a second life through lung transplantation.

One night, Jehovah Rapha — The God Who Heals — shattered the reverberations to assure me death was not what I thought. He invited me into His peace and I entered it; peace was not relief of death, but defiance of its sting.

Death As a Source of Life

Confronting death leads to joyful living. Death is still very much an enemy resulting from the world’s brokenness, but Christ destroyed its power on the cross to give us hope that we can live beyond our mortal bodies. To honor that, I choose to live defiantly, fervently, and beautifully, knowing this earthly life is short. I share the peace I found through God, in reflection of Job 33:19-30:

“Someone may be chastened on a bed of pain
    with constant distress in their bones,
so that their body finds food repulsive
    and their soul loathes the choicest meal.
Their flesh wastes away to nothing,
    and their bones, once hidden, now stick out.
They draw near to the pit,
    and their life to the messengers of death.
Yet if there is an angel at their side,
    a messenger, one out of a thousand,
    sent to tell them how to be upright,
and he is gracious to that person and says to God,
    ‘Spare them from going down to the pit;
    I have found a ransom for them—
let their flesh be renewed like a child’s;
    let them be restored as in the days of their youth’—
then that person can pray to God and find favor with him,
    they will see God’s face and shout for joy;
    he will restore them to full well-being.
And they will go to others and say,
    ‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right,
    but I did not get what I deserved.
God has delivered me from going down to the pit,
    and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’

“God does all these things to a person—
    twice, even three times—
to turn them back from the pit,
    that the light of life may shine on them.”

God delivered me from the pit, so I enjoy the light of life. Through my faith, I have overcome the limitations and restrictions of death, and have embraced the liberty and empowerment of living in spite of death.

Practicing Death

Daily, I meditate on my mortality to make myself unafraid. Many people avoid thinking about death because it makes them uncomfortable; maybe that avoidance is why they are uncomfortable. Early Christian Romans carved in art, trees, and statues memento mori — “Remember that you must die.” Remembering we will die at any moment humbles, creates urgency, prioritizes, builds gratitude.

Recently, I sat on a cliff edge, deaf, to watch black, immense waves roll beneath night fog. As the weight of the ocean rose and toppled in silence, I reflected on both the colossal power of God and the dark nights of my past. I heard myself sob again, “Mama, mama!” from the soiled hospital bed. I heard again the war drum pounding ribs as surgeons prepared me for surgery. I heard the tearing of flesh and cracking of those ribs while I slept, so close to death.

I remember the God who tore me out from the chaos, making me stronger each time. To be grateful, I must remember what He saved me from. I try to live like tomorrow won’t happen, sharing God’s peace with others and choosing refreshed attitudes each morning.

One day, though, I will pass from this Earth. I think I will know when it’s time, and go down in acceptance rather than with fight.

It will likely be sooner than most peers. Then again, the average butterfly lives only two weeks and we don’t call their lives ugly.

The Ultimate Hope

Stations were set up round the sanctuary for Ash Wednesday: areas to record Lent vows, to stare into a mirror while reflecting on origins and promises, to take communion, to receive the marks of ash on the forehead.

At the section for meditating on mortality, I lit a candle and gazed at the flicker licking air. I felt the Spirit of Truth tickle my spine, then a whisper in my mind: “Remember, from dust you came and to dust you shall return.”

But there will be a day, loved one, when I rise again from dust to see a new Earth, a new Heaven. The Author of Life — the Alpha and Omega — wipes away my tears. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

And in that day, I will know that, truly, my old enemy is slain.

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