on dying

1 2/3 what I’ve already lived so far. That’s how much time I have left on this earth, if I have a really good run. That’s not long, in the grand scheme of things.

I’m studying the Bible at Bible college at the moment, and last week one of our lecturers took a small group of us out to a cemetary at a local church and told us to wander around and contemplate our mortality. And I did. 50 more years, on a really good run. I could have 1 more day.

Sobering thoughts, when I consider my life so far, choices made, relationships formed and lost, opportunities missed. What do I want my life to have been at the end? What do I want those at my funeral to remember about me? As I gazed at weathered headstones over 100 years old, names fading into oblivion under the elements, all sense of what I might acheive and accomplish faded from view. What will matter is whether I knew God and walked with him, and whether I loved people; the man I was, my character. How I loved people, or not. Whether I was strong for people, kind. Whether I helped them. Whether I showed them a bit of who God is. It stirred me to seek to change some things in my life and relationships.

It might seem depressing to reflect on your coming death, but it hasn’t depressed me at all. Sobering, but not depressing. In our hectic, frenetic lifestyle of going and doing, striving and getting, attaining and ammassing, very few of us ever take the time to reflect on where it’s all headed. We all end up in the grave.
For the Christian, there is no need to fear death, because our trust is in the One who overcame death and rose to life, so that any one who trsuts in him would have that eternal life. It’s secure in what he’s already accomplished, not any thing I can do. It really settled on me that it’s not about what I get in this life, because for the Christian, true life begins after death. It was good to reflect and realise that what I have always beleived to be true in my mind is starting to become the reality of my heart. That’s not at all to deny the grief and sadness from the loss that death brings, but the enduring hope that Jesus won for us.

At the end our lecturer had someone read out a poem by a man named John Donne, a Christian from the 19th century, who spent many years very sick and facing his own mortality. And yet he could right this:

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Death Be Not Proud
by John Donne


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