Yesterday we had to say good-bye to our beloved kitty of almost 13 years. I had the undesirable task of taking her to the vet to be put down.
That was tough. Saying good-bye is hard. Seeing life there one minute and gone the next is baffling to me.
Many snot-filled kleenexes later, I am left in the aftermath to process this whole life and death thing, once again, as I do every time I am confronted with the mystery and certainty of death. We are all affected by death in one way or another. Whether it’s a person or a pet, death brings pain every time. Every. Time.
Death usually brings a measure of contemplation as well.
Before I took Emma to the vet, in my head, I kept hearing the phrase, “death has lost its sting.” I had to mull that one over a bit because death really stings. It hurts. It sucks. When does death lose its sting because the sting has been very present every time I have experienced death?
I knew God had something to show me by getting that phrase stuck in my head. So I googled it and found it in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (and Hosea 13:14).
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Hungry to have God open my eyes and bring some comfort when trying to understand death, I went back in 1 Corinthians 15 and started reading at the beginning of the chapter.
Apparently, many people back then did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. They did not believe that there was life after death. This life was all there was. There was no hope for something beyond the here and now. For them, death was the very end. That’s terrifying.
Next week, I will turn 35. Everyone hits a mid-life crisis at some point. I might be hitting mine sooner than others because I have been wrestling a lot lately. Long before taking my cat to the vet today, I have been giving a lot of mental energy to wondering about life after this planet. I have been realizing that I no longer have “my whole life ahead of me.” If I live to be 70, I will be half-way through my life. If I live to be 80, I have a few more years until I am halfway, but in the next decade, I will probably be reaching the halfway marker through my life. After you hit the halfway marker on a trip, it feels like you are really getting there. You are closer to your destination than ever before. It always feels good to be over halfway there. I have been wrestling because as I travel through this life, reaching the potential halfway marker scares me.
We know (some of us in a very sobering way) that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. If we are fortunate enough to live until an old age, the reality that death is close is very real. Since I am still young, I still have a lot of dreams or hopes or plans for the future, but will I still dream or hope about the future in the same way when I am 85 (if I live that long)?
I remember asking Todd’s (then 87 year old) grandma a question that I was extremely hesitant to ask, but was dying (no pun intended) to know. I asked her, “ What is it like living when you know that you really do not have a whole lot of years left on this planet?” Her response was something like, “It doesn’t feel a whole lot different, but I don’t make plans as far in the future. I just live each day and I’m thankful if I wake up that morning.”
If you have ever spent any quality time with an elderly person, you can testify that they are really no different than a 35 year old on the inside. They somehow just found themselves in a body that is wearing out.
When God determines it is time to breathe the last breath, our bodies are buried in the earth with the promise that that is not the end of the story.
“When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: people have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:37-44).
These bodies are perishable, but one day we will more fully embody who God has made us to be and in that state, we will be imperishable. The seed and the plant look very different. The true splendor of the plant comes after the seed has died and been buried.
There is life after death. What that life will look like is, in most ways, a mystery. This life is just the seed. Later will come the glory of these seeds that we are.
After the pain has subsided, I find myself thinking how strange it is that the person (or pet) I lost is no longer here. They will never again be on this earth. I can’t wrap my mind around that, especially when I think about the fact that one day I will not be here.
Death still scares me a little because there is so much unknown. Yet, I am determined to face my fear and keep pressing in to God for comfort and understanding. The image of a tiny seed becoming an incredible plant helps paint a better picture of how much greater our existence in heaven will be when we leave this life and God gives us the bodies he has determined for us. If you think of the whole earth as a seed (the roundness helps), I can’t wait to see what the “plant” looks like in heaven.