While the Bible tells us we are like a vapor and that we’re like the grass that withers and dries away, we don’t really believe that, do we? Come on, that sounds like such a sad song reminding us all we are is dust in the wind. It’s not that bleak, is it?
I get to sit with individuals and families in those moments when they say goodbye to a loved one that’s been a fixture throughout their lives. They’ve known this person for every breath drawn into their lungs and they’ve known them as fully as anyone can know another person. The only problem now is they’re gone. They died because they had cancer or heart problems or simply got old and died. It almost doesn’t matter how one has died because the important thing is that they have died and someone alive lost someone dear to them. It becomes a poignant time of loss for those who remain.
I’m only now coming to a point of clarity over these perplexing issues and part of my interest in it comes because I sit with folks who are scattered along the arc of life when they are forced to deal with these incredibly powerful issues.
A while back I was with a family that had lost the elderly patriarch who had been the linchpin for the whole family system. This man’s death came unexpectedly even though not everyone in the family grasped the inevitability of the approaching moment of death when it arrived. This dear man was a singularly important figure for almost everyone in the family. What was interesting was how notably this man had left his imprint upon the family. Everyone was touched in different ways by his great spirit, but they had something about which they could be grateful. Everyone had received something that was a part of him … a way of being, a certain strength of character, a particular passion that came from him … you know how this works, don’t you?
More than that, it was obvious looking over the family from the vantage point of the pulpit that the genetic tree had produced fruit that was easily evident in all the faces of the grandkids. It was visible in the way they carried themselves or in the ways they were all eagerly taking their place in the world. They had goals and were already demonstrating their productiveness in the world. All that came from this great life force that emanated from their grandfather.
I think the Bible means to let us know we are merely links in a chain and once our link has been added to the chain, there’s nothing more life has to say about that. Life goes on with its incessant need to move along adding ever more links. There were links before us and there will be links after our time has come and gone. We’re such a small part of the great river rolling through time and eventually we’ll relinquish our place to those who follow after us.