I have an uninvited companion. His name is Death. He barged in and dragged off my mother, my father, my in-laws, and pets in short order then came back with his luggage to stay.
At first, I fought him like mad by flailing at others.
“This feels so WRONG.” I accused God. “Are you really in control? Do You really exist?”
I snapped at my family, “Pick up your stuff. I just cleared that table.” Don’t you care about me?
I hated myself. You’re a sorry excuse for a Christian. You’re so negative and such a nag.
I looked for the world’s outrage at Death’s intrusion, but the same inane ads jingled on TV, and our neighbors continued to chat on their phones and walk their dogs, while my world was ripped open and my loved ones sucked out. I felt alone in my grief.
I subsided into a numb, dripping fog. Death hung on my arm or around my neck. He stood on my feet as I moved through the day so that sweeping the floor wasn’t worth the effort. He threw a pall over the green leaves and fiery sunsets, turning everything grayscale.
Driving to the grocery store, Death sat in the passenger seat. A block down the road, he blew scenes of Mom and Dad into my eyes. I couldn’t see and had to pull over. On the way to the post office, he shoved me with another memory, and I forgot where I was going.
Years have passed and my friend, Time, edged between Death and me. Death moved to the backseat, and grew bored kicking my seat. In the house, he moved down the hall, ghosting between the rooms, sometimes startling me in the kitchen with an aroma from my past, but Time managed to subdue him.
Now while Death naps, Time reminds me of happier memories and realizations of blessings from my parents, but occasionally, Death manipulates Time. A song or hue of light provides a wormhole, and he springs at me when I least expect him. He cracks his knuckles with the passing of my friends’ loved ones and opens his suitcase full of memories, so that I relive, rehash, and re-grieve.
I want to upend Death’s baggage and polish the jagged shards that spill out into chimes of colorful life, and I CAN do this. I can be compassionate toward people assaulted by Death, because I understand some of their turmoil.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” II Corinthians 1:3-5
I sat with a friend at her dying mother’s bedside. Time was too young to support my friend, so I came as a placeholder, a presence but not much more.
Death nodded at me as I listened to labored breaths and watched my friend comb her mom’s hair with her fingers. He reminded me that the date was my dad’s birthday.
I excused myself and went into the parking lot to call my brother. We caught up about kids and fortified each other, because Death was winking at him on that date too.
Death may cut us apart , but I can polish this shard by connecting with others.
Death cuts life short, but I can sweep away the trivial splinters from his bag and choose to polish the important chips by living intentionally.
I focus on the person across the table instead of mentally adding items on my to-do list or looking at my phone. I lasso my wandering mind on walks and enjoy the landscaped yards, appreciate a mockingbird’s repertoire, and feel the breeze across my cheek. When people come to mind, I pray for them, call them, or drop them a note.
My heightened awareness of the present and of the important makes me feel more alive, because I’m more connected to life and to things that matter. I’ve learned to live with and even benefit from Death.
For years I searched for Joy, but after Death came, I discovered Joy skipping all around me. She has padded beside me all along, but I never recognized her until Death taught me to appreciate life.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation