On February 3, 2016, my grandmother, Janet Dignon, passed away after a battle with lung cancer. She celebrated her 93rd birthday the week before, and just a year ago we all thought she would see 100. She was the tough, forceful, persevering type who never seems to age, always cooking and playing hostess even when she was a guest. Though at times it seemed she found it hard to communicate her love for her family, she showed it through these myriad acts of service. Family was everything to her: living frugally to save up as much as possible for the generations to come, trying to make sure we made good choices about life and education.
Ever young at heart, she would always claim that she was 16 when one of her young grandkids asked how old she was, and I think maybe deep down she kind of believed it. Maybe that was the key to her longevity: as with most 16-year-olds she believed in her own immortality. Certainly there are better things to do with one’s life than to be consumed with thoughts or fears of death, but it is a reality of our existence, and we really shouldn’t go around in denial of it either.
Paul says in Philippians 1:21-23.:
21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
I pray that God would give all of us the faith this man had: not only the confidence that we are bound for a better place and eternal life with Jesus, but also the knowledge that our lives exist to glorify Christ and do His work.
I’ll confess that I’ve yet to come to the place where I eagerly await the time when I’ll depart this earth and join my Father and my Savior in heaven. I struggle with the images my feeble human brain tries to contrive of this utopic and eternal place, and I know it’s because somewhere deep down my heart questions whether Jesus is really enough. In this life or the next, is He the only purpose I need? Do I really want to live forever if all the fights are already won? This human trait of striving and working hard to achieve and create must serve some purpose in His eternal kingdom! I can only speculate, and the not knowing is so hard!
All we can do is pray again for the faith to get to the where place Paul, even with his intellectual mind, finds himself: at complete peace with the idea of both death and life.