Sunday, March 23, 2008

Wife Rule #32: We Celebrate Life!

There are certain experiences we have in life that shape and define us in unusual ways. They cause a concept or idea that was abstract before to come into sharp focus. Our understandings are enlightened, and our view of the cosmos is expanded forever, even if only by a few inches. A new brick, solid as stone, is added to our personal pathway of progression.

I had such an experience about eight years ago, in the first few minutes after I received word that my maternal grandfather had died. This was my first time as an adult to lose someone close to me. My paternal grandfather died when I was a young teenager, but somehow my feelings during that experience were child-sized and simple comparatively, and I don't remember experiencing many strong emotions with his death.

But as an adult, this death was different. There wasn't a lot of sadness; Grandpa was old and had already lost most of the quality of life that he had previously enjoyed for so many years. There wasn't really much cause to mourn for Grandma's sake either. I didn't think she would suffer much because her mind was so feeble that in all likelihood she would need to be reminded each day that he had passed away.

But even without strong sadness, there was powerful emotion. For the first time I remember, I found myself contemplating the reality that someone I loved was gone, that I would never see Grandpa again in this life. Never again would I see the gentle twinkle in his eye, or his moustached, smiling mouth chuckle softly during a Sunday afternoon visit. This was someone I knew well, someone who was very real to me who had embarked on the next phase of the Great Adventure.

And suddenly I knew things I hadn't before. I knew that Grandpa still existed. I could feel it with every part of my consciousness. Grandpa was not really gone, but had just moved into another sphere where I couldn't see him anymore. His living spirit had abandoned his old, frail body, and he was now at peace from the trials and troubles we experience in our daily lives here.

I also knew that our separation was temporary; I would see him again some day, and eventually enjoy family associations with him and others I know in this life, living together, our spirits clothed in perfected physical bodies, never to die or be separated again.

My heart leaped at this sudden knowledge.

I had been taught these doctrines all my life, but it took experiencing the personal loss that comes with death, even in this relatively mild form, to drive them into my soul. In an unexpected way, this brief moment in time became one of my happiest memories, an important snapshot that was indelibly added to my picture album of God's goodness.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55)

The words no longer belonged to Paul, as mere prose printed on a page; they belonged to me. They had been etched into the fleshy tables of my heart. If every Bible in the world were somehow destroyed by fire or flood, this scripture would live on in me, indestructible. It was mine.

With my reality thus expanded, Easter could never be the same. Today we celebrated the great atonement of the Son of God on our behalf. Many times I have experienced the unspeakable joy of receiving forgiveness of my sins through His vicarious sacrifice. His suffering and death have long been part of my life. But now, with added experience, those joyful words spoken by the angels to His disciples burn radiant in my mind:

Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen. (Luke 24:5-6)

Just as He rose from the dead on the third day, so will each of us in His own time. The greatest miracle ever to occur on this earth was not a one-time event that took place two thousand years ago, but is a living miracle today. It occurs anew every time, at the loss of a loved one, that the heart of a believer is touched with this Great Truth: the sting of death, no matter how bitter and exquisite it may be now, will eventually be swallowed up in the victory of Christ over it.

And so I know, that come what may in this life, any separation from my wife, my children, my parents, or my grandparents, is only temporary. How grateful I am that my own little family has been redeemed from both death and sin and can exist eternally! The stars may someday burn out; whole universes may come and go like the seasons; but families were designed to last forever! The path is prepared, and all we have to do is proceed down it in faith.

This sure knowledge adds beauty, and luster, and light, and eternal weight to relationships I treasure so deeply with my wife and other family members. She was not meant to flutter into my life for a brief moment only, like a butterfly on a flower, but is meant to become an eternal anchor to my immortal soul. It is not life, but death, that is a temporary flash in the grand history of creation.

Easter is truly a celebration of life. We celebrate our Savior's mortal ministry and the resplendant resurrection that followed his agony. We celebrate our own eventual resurrection, as enabled by Him. And we even celebrate our mortal lives, difficult as they sometimes are, because we know that every experience we have, every sacrifice we make, and every person we love while on this globe are important--each made significant through the knowledge that this mortal life is but a small moment in a grander plan, a shadow of a much, much better life to come.

But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

6 comments:

Brooke said...

Amen. Thank you for the beautiful words that perfectly describe the beautiful feelings of my heart, too.

Alisa said...

Great to hear your experience with Grandpa. I always remember his birthday this time of year. You were lucky and had a few extra years to know him!

Mom said...

Thank you, Matt. Again, so beautifully written and expressed!

Amy said...

I was considering writing something nice on Easter about life, death, and resurrection. I think I'm just going to make a link to this blog instead. Do you mind?

Beautifully put.

LuckyMatt said...

Alisa, I feel like I missed (or squandered) my chance to know Grandpa when he was still in good enough health to talk and be very personable. I suppose that's why I felt like his short autobiography was such a treasure. It finally helped me get to know him, even if after he died.

Amy, feel free to link here! I'd be honored.

chelse said...

you're amazing matt! thanks for making life at work more enjoyable!