Out of Time

In the past three weeks, we’ve lost four friends or family members, none of whom were “expected” to pass away.  One of the things you always hear is “We’re not promised tomorrow,” and while we know this is true and often repeat it, sometimes life hits in a way that you feel it. Deeply.  

One of the first lectures on the first day of medical school was about making peace with death.  Our professor stood in front of an entire lecture hall of fresh-faced, eager, hopeful, brand-new (read: naïve & green!) medical students and told us that we would all kill someone before our career was over.  Not intentionally, of course, but each of us would at some point make a fatal mistake, so it was critically important to make peace with death, because it was as much a part of life as being born, and it would always be part of our career paths and lives.

It was many years later that I truly made peace with death. Another story for another day. 

As Christians, we have the confidence that death is not an end, but a beginning.  There is a thin veil that separates our earthly lives from our Heavenly eternity.  I woke just last night and sat straight up because I thought I smelled cigarette smoke; nobody in my household smokes!  It smelled just like my Daddy.  As I blinked and shook myself awake, I realized it was probably just a little dream visit. We’ve been facing an awful lot on his side of the family recently, including the sudden death of one of his lifelong best friends (who served as one of Daddy’s pallbearers when he died) and the passing of an aunt who was one of the feistiest, funniest, most beautiful and fun-loving people I have ever known (truly one of my all-time favorite people on the planet!).  I guess he knew I could use one of his big bear hugs. 

That’s the thing about death for Christians.  We know it’s not over, but it is never the same on this side of Heaven when someone you love dies.  If you pay attention, you may see signs of them, smell them, see the God-winks from Heaven that let you know you aren’t alone.  But that isn’t the same as being wrapped in someone’s arms, feeling the warmth of their embrace, or hearing them laugh at your crazy stories. We should be OK, we know the huge price Jesus paid for us to have access to our Father and to eternity, but sometimes we aren’t so OK. And friends, that’s alright too…. God knows.  

The most comforting thing anyone said to me when I was standing by my Daddy’s casket after he committed suicide was “God knows, God knows.” Nothing else brought any comfort. After a years- long battle with alcoholism and depression, he took the only way out that he could find at that time.  He was hopeful that the forgiveness of Jesus covered ALL our sins, not just some of them.  I know that he was right. I’ll see him again one day, and none of that pain will be there.  This life is just a blink of an eye in the scope of eternity.   Time will cease to exist, and we will only know complete peace and joy then.  Fullness, wholeness, contented happiness never known before. 

But on this side, I hope you will find this as comforting as I have found it. The shortest verse of the Bible: “Jesus wept.” He cried. He knew Lazarus was dead before he got the news. He knew Lazarus would be alive again as soon as He touched his friend. He wept because Mary’s and Martha’s hearts were broken.  He knew that Eternity was so much better than we could even begin to imagine and that death here was not even close to forever.  But Jesus wept…because He knows our pain.  He knows this world is full of regret and hurt and disease and depression and addiction and betrayal.  He wept because He loves us and has complete and full empathy and compassion for us.  He wept, just like we do as Christians, because knowing how beautiful the end of a story is, doesn’t mean you can’t cry at the sad parts along the way. 

May the God of all comfort hold us, strengthen us, and wrap us in His peace until we all meet again someday….

In His Love, 

Dr. Allison Key