This past Sunday, while we were in church, one of our dear members reported to us the death of their brother-in-law. It was a sudden thing. He was at home and passed out, the ambulance was called. The paramedics did all they could to revive him, and yet he slipped from this life to the next, in an instant.

Its hard to come to grips with death. We all are aware it will come for us, no one is the exception. Even though we know the inevitability of death, it always seems to come so quickly.

In looking at some letters from the U.S. Civil War, we find an oft quoted sentiment. George Hovey Cadman was a soldier in the 39th Ohio Infantry Regiment. He had been writing letters to his wife from the front. He had detailed for her the losses his regiment had been suffering. He was clearly communicating how death was tugging at them throughout the campaign. It was to be expected, it was war after all. He had received a letter from his wife informing him of the death of a neighbor. On June 28, 1864 he responded with the following…

“My dear wife:

I have just received your letter of the 20th, with an account of the death of Mary Giffin. You see, my love, that death is no respecter of persons, and that old and young die, at home as well as on the battlefield.”

Clearly, George was referencing a biblical train of thought from Paul’s letter to the Romans, 2:11, “For God shows no partiality.” Who we are, where we are, what we are doing, where we’re going, how loved or despised we may be, God does not distinguish between us. When our time comes…we go.

Death is the part of life we seem to find so inscrutable. It is simply too hard to come to terms with. Some are taken at a young age, others live on to old age. Some do all the right things, eat all the right foods, keep their physical bodies in good shape, and yet death comes. The opposite is true as well. Some have so many unhealthy habits, and yet they live much longer lives.

I think, in order to come to terms with the reality of death, we should most likely come to terms with the reality of life. How life begins is a wonder in itself. I recently read a response to a question which I found fascinating. The question was, “If all persons on earth died, and only one man and one woman were left, could they repopulate the earth?” The answer really got me thinking. The answer was it would be highly improbable. It takes all the right conditions for one man and one woman to conceive and bring a baby into the world. The gestation period of nine months is an extremely long time. Barring all the complications that can occur, a baby arrives. Then you begin the process all over again, with all the same potentialities for failure to conceive and bring a baby to term. This does not even take into consideration all the possibilities which would exist for a child to mature to adulthood.

Life, is in itself a complete wonder. God breathes into us the breath of life when we are born, and from the instant we are in a process heading toward an eventual death. It all sounds somewhat fatalistic. What’s even the point? The point is the meaning of our life, the lives of those around us, the lives of each and every person on this earth are a miracle. When we think of the few moments each person has, that life becomes all the more precious and sacred. Each life is an expression of God. Each expression of God brings a new and unique understanding of how wonderful a life is to behold. Knowing and understanding this, brings us to a moment of clarity.

Life is tenuous, at best. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed in the present. Beyond the present, there is nothing else. What we say to each other, is only for that moment. What we do to one another, happens in the present. There are no “do overs.” There are no future times when we can make up for missed opportunities to share love and life.

On Sunday, my friend David Cline was living in the moment, with his mother Susan by his side. All other moments before faded away. All moments beyond that time, were unavailable. It was only that moment of the present. How beautifully sacred that moment was. All the moments after were painful and filled with grief. But that one single moment; touching, holding, caressing, loving. That’s the moment of life that death makes so precious and wonderful.

No words can bring relief to us when our loved ones pass. There is really nothing anyone can do to bring relief to our sadness and anguish. Because of the tenuousness of life, and the capricious nature of death, each of us should endeavor to live in the present moment. The words I speak to you, may be my last. They may be the last words you hear. What I do to you, may be the last thing you will experience, and the last thing I ever have to give.

I want to make today, right now, this moment, the most precious and sacred I can. If you hear nothing else from me, know that the God who lives in me, loves and values the God I see and know through you. May God continue to assist us and urge us to live each moment to its fullest.

Your companion on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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