Death: to many, it is the great unknown. Throughout our lives it is the two-ton elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about or think about. Our society strives to deny death as it fears it and its consequences. No one wants to stare it in the face. And yet we all die and we all know that we all die.
As it is written:
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut–when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low– they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets– before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity, (Ecclesiastes 12:1-8).
I find it interesting, when we look at the entire passage, how the Preacher here establishes a truth about those who are dying: people focus internally and on the soul. Pretty much everyone who has a prolonged period before death has to come to grips with the realities that all material things are really nothing (“vanity”), and that the soul is about to return to the God who gave it, while the body will be dust again. The Preacher’s exhortation, then, is for us to remember the Creator not just on the deathbed, when everything is unpleasant, everything slows down and the senses begin turning off, but also in the prime of life.
Death remains a difficult subject for us, because it is easy to go to extremes. On the one hand, we see clearly how so many simply try to deny death and act as if it will not come. On the other hand, some obsess over death, and constantly believe that their demise is imminent. Neither extreme is helpful. Death is not something to deny, nor is it a thing to fear. Death is part of life. We must live every day with the recognition that we continue to live by the grace and blessing of God, and that we are always prepared. As it is written,
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope, (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
We can live confidently if we live in the hope of salvation and prepare to die in hope of eternal life. If we die in that hope, we give comfort beyond understanding or measure to those whom we leave behind. If we do not die in that hope, we cause no end of grief to those we leave behind in the truth who love us.
Live every day as if you will face your God the next, and you can live and die without fear, and the peace that surpasses understanding will be with you and the ones whom you love (Philippians 4:7).