Reflections of What Will Come

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The earth below, above is sky

Soon it will be my turn to die

Life’s road was traveled way too fast

Never possible to go back to the past

Fleeting memories in my mind

But even more I cannot find

Of what good the years of life

If I live them full of strife

The sky is warm, the earth so cold

A life well-spent worth more than gold

Hear my words, young ones of earth

Too quick you’ll leave after your birth

Spend wise the time entrusted you

Knowing eternity is soon in view

Death creeps, but I am not afraid

To cross the shadows of the glade

I look up, my hope is sure

My heart’s love will long endure

Long may tears from family fall

When I must answer heaven’s call

Life was hard, but I am strong

For time with God is what I long

A resting place with no more pain

A hell to shun and heaven to gain.

Facing Christmas After Death

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In The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis introduces us to a mythical creature called a faun. The faun’s name is Mr. Tumnus and he is the first creature that Lucy meets after entering the Kingdom of Narnia through the wardrobe in the spare room.

“It is winter in Narnia, and has been for ever so long…. always winter, but never Christmas.” — Mr. Tumnus

The calendar on the wall showed that Christmas of 1995 quickly approached, but it was a year that I would have preferred to see no Christmas at all.

Each day seemed like an eternity. Winter had arrived where we lived and it had nothing to do with the weather.

My 22-year-old brother, who was one of the best friends I have ever had, passed away from a massive heart attack. He had not been ill and had only recently been honorably discharged from the US Air Force after serving at two different bases.

The day he passed started like any other. He had left for work before I was up. Preparing to walk out the door and leave for work, I picked up my phone to call him. It rang once or twice and I disconnected the call as I remembered that his boss did not like them taking calls during the workday.

Twenty minutes later, I received a call from his supervisor informing me that I needed to meet them at the hospital as my brother was having problems breathing. We would later learn that around 9:10am, he had provided CPR/First Aid assistance to a woman who was having an angina attack. The medics arrived in just a few minutes. My brother turned the care of the woman to the EMTs, walked about twenty feet back to his own desk, sat down, and his colleague caught him as he fell to the floor. The EMTs rushed over but he was already gone.

Winter had arrived!

The day of the funeral came and went while we prepared to face Thanksgiving Day and then Christmas. My parents, grandfather, and all my other siblings were back at their respective homes and we were each left on our own to muddle through the days that are supposed to be filled with joy.

Going to the store, bell ringers with the Salvation Army clanged their bells and shouted “Merry Christmas.” The sound of the bells though did not sound like a joyful rendition of “Carol of the Bells.” Each tinkle jarred the senses.

Cashiers concluded the ringing up of purchases by saying, “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” Many of them smiled while wearing their decorated sweaters or hats. However, each smile and Christmas wish made me cringe.

“Who do they think they are?”

“Why are they wishing me a Merry Christmas? There is nothing merry about Christmas this year.”

“How is it possible that they cannot see the grief etched on the faces of our family?”

“Why don’t we each just try to survive this winter of death and let Christmas pass like the wretch spoken of by Walter Scott in “The Lay of the Last Minstrel?”

“The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonored, and unsung.”

Our family wanted Christmas to go away “unwept, unhonored, and unsung.” Winter has no bottom to its depths when death sweeps into view across the near horizon.

The beautiful hymns sung at Christmas held no joy, especially “Joy to the World.” Yes, the Lord has come, but why could He have not removed death itself. The sting of death and the grave is actually gone for those who are true Christians, but it does NOT mean that there will be no pain in saying goodbye to those we love.

For the next few months, each day seemed like a repeat of the same one already lived. Hope seemed harsh. Joy was noticeable in its absence. Normal was no longer normal.

In the movie, Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character (Phil) finally learns his lessons about how to treat others with respect. At one point, Phil says, “When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life.”

Whether Chekhov actually said this or not is debatable, but winter does present itself bleak, dark, and bereft of hope. There are times when we wonder if winter will ever end and if there will be a Christmas once again.

Yet for all the sadness and grief that spelled the winter of our lives, hope began to arrive just like the spring. We would not want my brother to come back or to have gone through life with any suffering. This provided a new level of hope.

Each day and each trip to the cemetery (where I actually worked at the time), finally brought a sense of closure as I was reminded of the words of the apostle Paul in First Corinthians 15. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” This passage of Scripture reminds us that there is hope for the future.

This Christmas marks the 23rd year since my brother left this earth. There are days the pain is still there, but it is not like it was back then. There are still times that I wish I could pick up the phone and have a conversation with John, but I just take a moment to refocus. Then I remember that there are others who may be going through difficulties and what they need this Christmas is comfort.

If you are going through pain, grief, sadness, or mourning the passing of a loved one, know that there is hope.

Narnia could not endure forever without Christmas.

Like Mr. Tumnus, you may feel that winter “has been forever for so long.” But, from personal experience, I want to encourage you that your winter will one day end.

Spring will blossom once again.