Five months ago, I stood in my bathroom staring into a mirror stained with specks of toothpaste spit. I fixed my hair, pulling it behind my ears, and made my face up with all the chemicals, creams, and colors.
Then I took a brush to my son’s hair, long curls of auburn red, just like my own. I told him we were dressing up, even though we weren’t leaving the house, even though we were only going to turn the computer on and sit in our dining chairs to watch the virtual viewing of my grandfather who lost life to the faint pushing of breath in his lungs.
I still remember when I learned the news, how he had COVID, how it seeped into his body, lungs filling with fluid, heart heaving weaker and weaker with every faint breath.
When we lost him, I was eight months round and in the swell of pregnancy with my second son. When we lost him, the world was in the swell of a high wave of rising COVID cases. The nightmare of the worst year ending at Christmas and folding right into the New Year, loved ones losing life, left and right.
I watched the viewing as the wobbly camera captured my family speaking words of remembrance and sprinkling flowers atop my grandfather’s grave. I watched the snow on the burial grounds glisten as it lit up under the sun, reflecting right on through my computer screen. I could almost feel the chill of New York’s bitter air as much as I felt the warm tears rolling down my cheeks, crying muted into the camera while watching this virtual viewing.
The tears came because there was sorrow, but the tears also came because there was hope. As I sat there, cradling life in one hand and death in the other, I listened to the story of my grandfather’s last few moments, how he pointed to the ceiling of that hospital room and motioned to his three children that he was ready to be home, really home.
I sat there, tears branding themselves into my heart, and I couldn’t help but think about the little girl within me, and how she had always carried a fear of death because she felt that it was close. Like the passing of her aunt when her heart gave out, the time the cancer took her grandmother away, or the annual memorial services for her grandfather, a Black police officer slain in the name of revolution — every year hearing the gunshots go out as men in kilt skirts played processionals on bagpipes. And how the little girl within me grew up seeing her brother fall to the floor in epileptic episodes, fearing that every bump in the house was the sound of her brother’s head banging on the ground and bleeding out.
But as I sat there, watching light ricochet off the frost-bitten ground, I did not feel a freeze seep into my breath or embitter my bones. I did not feel a sting, a burning anger, or that raging need-to-know of why and how. I did not see a body swallowed up by dirt and death. Instead, I saw hope rise as I reflected on the life of a man who had lived a life loyal to the love of Christ — a man who brought me up himself to know and trust the ways and words of God. Not a perfect man, but a professing man — a man who knew he needed God’s grace and who believed in the salvation that Jesus’ death offers.
I couldn’t help but think that if he could believe it right down to the moment of his passing, right down to the last breath, down to that moment when he motioned with his fingers that he knew where he was going and was ready to go, then so could I.
I know it doesn’t happen everyday that your grandfather, or some other beloved of yours, dies and inspires you to believe that death is not the end and that there is more to this life, but then I’m reminded that there was another Man whose death so many years ago brought more hope and healing into the world than it did hurt.
His death not only brought healing and hope for our lives here on earth, but it made healing and hope possible for every part of our hearts that longs to believe there is more to life. Jesus’ death, if we let it, gives us a healing truth and hope to hold onto, even while we cannot take on someone else’s pain or suffering or heart fading out, even though we cannot extend their time on earth, cannot keep the blood flowing, the heart beating, the lungs breathing. Even still, we can find hope in knowing that last gaping breath does not have to be the end.
In Christ, death is only the beginning. And we don’t need to fear that beginning because it will be the beautiful start to a breathtaking eternity with an ever-loving, everlasting God.Leave a Comment