I wrote the following Blog post on 4/2/2021, having no idea that my husband would pass away just fifteen days later. The words are now more poignant than ever:
Today is Good Friday. I am struck to tears and unspeakable heartache, now more than ever before. Why? Every Good Friday, we are called to remember the brutal beating and crucifixion of Jesus. He walked in the midst of those deemed lesser and unimportant. They experienced his love and compassion for them. But he walked a lonely road to his death. Sure, a few had the courage to walk with him (ahem…the women!). But many, his disciples, in particular, scattered for their own safety. Feeling powerless to stop it from happening.
Also, today we are reliving the horrific facts of the death of George Floyd during the trial of Derek Chauvin. Hearing the witnesses’ testimony as they broke down and grieved over watching Floyd die has been excruciating for many. Most of the witnesses were strangers to him, yet they all spoke of feeling helpless and guilty that they didn’t try to help him. Even though they also knew they were powerless to do so.
Jesus was innocent of any crime. George Floyd was not. But the fact remains that neither deserved to die in such a violent way at the hands of another.
So I sit and contemplate how their deaths have impacted me. As a professed Christian, I am called to emulate Jesus’ radical love in every aspect of my life. I mostly fail, but I keep trying and longing to be more like him in how I live my life.
And George Floyd, I didn’t know him and likely never would have, nor would most of us, if not for witnessing his horrifying death on the daily news.
In those beautiful and poignant words of John Donne, “No man is an island; entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.”
Any man/woman’s death diminishes me. That is a fact of God’s making. We are all interconnected – like it or not. The death of another, be it a loved one or a stranger, should call us to stop and take inventory of our own lives. Every funeral I attend does that for me and often shines a light on my failings to be Christ-like to others. Thankfully, every day is a new day – a day to begin again.
So, here’s what I will be contemplating and praying about today, on this holy Good Friday, and hopefully be acting on daily. It doesn’t have to be Jesus who calls us to be better, kinder, softer, to live and love more fully. It can also be the death of a stranger we have never met that wakes us from sleepwalking through life. Facing the realization that we will also die (sorry if that’s news to you) – maybe sooner than later (sorry again) – should cause us to ask ourselves if our houses are in order and, more importantly, what we are leaving behind because…
Death does not care if we have left business unfinished, relationships broken, or children to be raised. It doesn’t matter if we are not ready or sit on promises to change. It will take the weak with the strong, the humble with the proud, the saint with the jerk. Death doesn’t respect wedding plans, vacation plans, or unmet deadlines. It does not operate by a timetable we set and is no respecter of age. It does not discriminate between the most loved or most hated. It may not wait for the most brilliant to cure cancer, bring peace to a troubled nation, or receive a Nobel Prize.
Denying that death is a part of life doesn’t change its reality. We can’t rely on death to come when we are ready. But we can depend on it to teach those of us who are willing how to truly live. It can and should be a time of reflection: Have I lived well, loved well, forgiven — honestly – and sought forgiveness humbly?
For good or bad, I have touched the lives of family and friends, the mailman, and the grumpy receptionist at the doctor’s office. I may have amassed wealth and recognition and left a fortune to my loved ones. All things they can pack away, gamble away, or throw away. But, at the end of the day…what have I left in their hearts?
So now, as I contemplate the reality that my life has changed drastically, my beliefs have not.
The suddenness of my husband’s death has not made me fearful or anxious, as I know God’s love and care for me have always been steady and unchanging, even when I have so often failed to appreciate it. At the same time, it drives home the fact that my own life is not guaranteed beyond this moment. So, what does that mean?
My life is filled with many moments of disbelief that my husband is actually gone. I’m sure that will continue for some time. But, in the midst of that, as I daily make decisions about how I am to “live and move and have my being” (Acts 17:28) – I am discovering my better Self; my true Self, not the self on display when others are watching.
I am asking critical questions that will surely determine my life’s direction, purpose, and focus for whatever time I have left here. How will/should I live my life moving forward? What do I want my loved ones to remember about me?
God longs for us to use the gifts he has given us to leave the world better than we found it. How will I do that? How will I serve in this time of such need and suffering? Every moment of every day allows us to grow in love and compassion for all those we encounter on this journey.
There truly are gifts in the midst of our goodbyes. What do I want mine to be? What do you want yours to be?