Death is not the end
Most people never get to speak at their own funeral. With today’s technology, you can record audio, video, you can speak on your own behalf to those who gather to honor and remember your life. It is not a morbid thing to prepare for the end of your physical life. Much of our own society and culture are so youth oriented that they never stop long enough to think about the passing of time, the aging process, and the inevitability of their own death.
I became acutely aware of the fragility of life when my brother Paul (2 1/2) died when I was five years old. Life was never the same after that, though my mother and father would have three more children, my sister Jaqueline, and my brothers, Stephen and Jonathon. That awareness hit me again when my first born daughter, Carragh was diagnosed with cancer at age 2 and suffered multiple relapses until she too passed away at age nine and a half. My father died at my current age of 59 from a massive heart attack a year later. My father in law, who was closer to me than my natural father, he died in his 67th year, some 18 years after a liver transplant. His body just could not live on, and gave out on him. I know how fragile life is.
I know even more so just how fragile it all is. I thought I was ready for that moment when my daughter died. I had a new sober reality that life could end very quickly. But I really was not prepared to look death in the face and face my own mortality until like my daughter, I faced the diagnosis of cancer in my life in October 2015.
I took it pretty hard
It numbed me. It really did not register. My wife was with me. I heard what the doctor said, but it really did not sink in. It was like hearing some speak in a wind tunnel. You hear words, and you nod your head that you understand, even though you are only connecting to some words and some syllables. Your whole being is recoiling when you hear and you are trying to hang on to some measure of self-control and dignity. You want to be strong for your spouse and the doctor, and for yourself. “Come on man, get a grip of yourself. You can deal with this.” That was one of my thoughts as I sat in the doctor’s office that day. I had to face death in the face. My physical life was at risk.
I had to face cancer surgery, a radical mastectomy of my right breast, and six weeks of radiation. Some doctors wanted to add chemotherapy. But the cancer was a hybrid cancer and had elements of breast cancer, sarcoma and carcinoma. I adjusted to the reality. I could say no and simply wait to die. I could say yes to all of it and hope for the best outcome. In all of it I had to work through the whole process of the reality that I could actually die. You might think for a Christian that it is an easy thing to think about. But it isn’t. I don’t think that even martyrs for the faith totally embrace the thought of the dying process. In abstract ways we can come to some reasonable, faith based, or science based reality that physical life will end, but it is the whole gamut of the “dying process” that truly affects us all. I think that down to our core, whether one is a person of faith or not, we end up having to face a truth we cannot any longer put off or deny. That truth is that as much as we can try to accept the finality of physical life, all of us hope that it is not the end. All of us hope that our life on this earth has meaning, and has meaning after we pass on to the next world, into eternity. The thought of just living this life and boom, in an instant it is all rendered meaningless and over, and there is nothing to die for and look forward to. We all wrestle with it to some degree. All kinds of non-Christian religions wrestle with it.
I wrestled with it. I had to battle the unknown, and the fears. I had to come to terms with it. I had to convince myself it was worth fighting, and going through with fighting for my life and work with the doctors and do what only I could do, and I had to do it for the people that matter to me. I had to do it for God too. I felt then as I do now, that there is something in all of this, where God is working through His providential will for my life and is with me in this whole process. He has not abandoned me and nor has he forsaken me. But it was not easy then and it is not easy now either. I was fortunate to have the help and support of my wife and family as I chose to fight on and go through the surgery and radiation and decline the chemotherapy. I had the prayer support and encouragement of friends, of people I stay connected with social media, with Facebook and Twitter. The church family was supportive. I made it through the treatments and recovery time and was able to get back to work. Every six months I face a checkup at Princess Margaret Hospital. It still produces some anxiety, but I face it now. I do know that one day I will die. It may be through cancer, or the side effects of the radiation, or a recurrence of it in my body. Or it could be something else altogether different. I could die in my sleep. I could die in an accident. The one and only certainty is, like you, I will face my own death eventually. I will face the end of my physical life on this earth. The one certainty is, that no one ever escapes death.
We are all dead men walking
I had to face the reality that I am a “dead man walking,” as is every human being that is ever born in this life. We are literally born to die once and then face the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). That is what the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews says that very thing. We are all born as image bearers of God and we are all given a measure of days that are of God’s own choosing. For some the days are short, like my brother Paul and my daughter Carragh. For some the days are longer. My wife’s aunt Marg was in her mid 90’s. None of us knows the day or the hour of our passing from this life into eternity. The one certainty is that we are born to die. How we live between the time of birth and the time of our death, is left up to us and the wisdom of the choices we make.
I am not gripped by fear of the unknown
I know I am loved by God. I know that I have come to saving faith in Jesus Christ alone. I have repented of my sin. I have turned away from the life that is self-centered to a life that seeks to please and honor God. I have sought to serve God and serve people, and treat them with respect and dignity and love. I have come to a place of peace of mind and a tranquil heart. Like a man on death row, I am a dead man walking. I am aware that my time will come. I am ready to face my Maker, my Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ. I have nothing to fear in physical death. Death is simply a door that I will walk through and enter into my heavenly rest.
BUT, yes there is always a “but” in there
But, please hear me on this. But, we have to make the decisions that affect eternity in the present moment. We cannot put it off until our last breath. We do not have that guarantee, that luxury of a quiet reflective moment where we can “make peace with God.” Now is the acceptable time to make our accounts clean with God. People in our culture and society have a twisted understanding of who God is and what God requires of each one of us. Many people think we are not justified by death. You know what I mean by this. You know the drill. You believe you have lived a good life, and you haven’t hurt anyone, and you have tried to do your best, and by all this, you hope that God will look at your, and then let you into His heaven. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t earn your way in. It is not given away to you either. God has made a way for everyone, and everyone must come to faith, God’s way, or risk being left out of the heavenly presence of God in Eternity. You need to repent and turn to Christ and forsake your sin and embrace the life God has for you. It’s not an automatic pass. You have to come to God in faith as a response to what God has made available through the atoning death of His Son, Jesus Christ, and this is only possible through justification by grace through faith in Jesus alone. All you really contribute here, is your sin, which is what condemns you, if you reject Christ.
I don’t want any of you to miss out on God or the other side of Eternity, what we call Heaven. You have no guarantees of extra time to decide. The time is now. You do not know when God will require you to cross from this physical life into the next. You soul one day will be required. Better to come on God’s revealed terms, than on your own whims and fanciful thoughts. Jesus alone saves and redeems. There is salvation in no other.
We are all born to die. But not all will die the second death. You can miss the second death
I don’t know how much time I have. Neither do you. I hope it is a lot longer to live, to enjoy all that life has to offer. I want to be there for my wife and my daughters and sons. I want to be a grandpa someday. I want to enjoy my senior years with my wife, whom I love and cherish. I want to serve God and the Church with renewed vigor and passion. But I don’t control any of that.
The wisdom of this world would tell to just not think about death or even consider preparing yourself to die. The worldly wisdom is summed up in: “Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die.” This is the way worldly people laugh off the inevitability of death, and live a life of denial of its reality by eating and drinking and maximizing on the euphoria of a merry life. It is summed up as “Do whatever you want, you are going to die, and just enjoy the ride.” This is a total denial of the final destination of a human life is at the terminal which has two exits, one which leads to eternal life and communion with God, and a life of peace and rest and a reconciliation of all things that occurred in your physical life up to your death and departure, and the other exit is to a place of judgment and separation from God, where you are completely absent from God and His presence and bliss.
That view, of doing whatever you want and enjoying the ride, that only gets you to the final destination of your own choosing. You reap what you have sown by being separated from God. You are the one responsible if you make that choice. On your last breath, that is what you face, if you reject God and salvation through Jesus Christ alone. This mindset of avoidance of God and focusing on enjoying life simply doesn’t address what comes after life or what happens to us when we cross the threshold of death. No man, woman or child gets a pass on this. Everyone ever born will cross the threshold of eternity. Which exit will you choose? Will you choose life and choose God? Will you still rebel and choose your own way which leads to your own destruction? The latter is a mockery of the certitude of eternity. People in our society live and act like this personal one act play they are living in, is an ongoing act that will go on and last forever.
How we choose to live this one life we have, determines the destiny of our souls at its end. You cannot changed the destination once you have reached the destination. You can only do that while you are on the journey. But know this for sure. Your journey, and my journey in this world will end. For every single person. The journey will end.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, most people never get to speak at their own funeral
So, if it’s left for me, I will leave a message to be shared with those that gather to support my family and remember me. I will want to get one more word in. I will want everyone to know this truth. I don’t want anyone to miss out on a life with God in this life, and life with God in the next. Your decision in this life, affects your life in the next realm of reality, which we call eternity. You can choose eternity with God, or completed separation from God, and suffer for your own rejection of God.
It is appointed for all men to be born once and then die and face the judgment. Only by being in a relationship with Jesus Christ can a person be assured of being with God in Glory. Make the wise decision. Repent. Turn away from your sin. Ask Christ into your life. Turn from death to life. Express genuine faith and trust in Jesus and what He has already done for you. Each minute that passes by is another minute wasted, if you do not yet know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour. Don’t waste another minute, another second. The Gospel is a simple message to understand, but the most difficult to accept.
Peace & Grace. Choose wisely.
Samuel M. Buick