The cycle of life is a beautiful one, a swift one, a predictable one. We anticipate births, applaud milestones and ponder aging. But there’s an aspect of this cycle that we generally avoid discussing: the end. It’s inescapable and mysterious. We don’t know how or when it’s going to be our turn; we just know one day it will be- or the turn of someone we love.
I have had very few encounters with the final chapters of life. Death has only brushed my life a handful of times, taking pets mostly, but a couple of the people I’ve bid the final farewell were deeply loved. The sorrow lingers and sometimes I still get swept away in thought as I recall memories with them. My husband, however, has endured the pain of great loss far too many times in a brief span of time, the most recent being last week. This time I am seeing grief in a new way.
Just as the birth of a child breathes freshness into life, grief can do the same. We are more aware of the fragility in living and the necessity to seize every moment with the people we love. We go back for the “just one more hug and kiss” our children beg for every night; we are talking with family and friends instead of only shooting texts; and the minor irritants are just that, minor. In an instant priorities are reordered.
Yet the exhilaration of birth is matched in intensity only by the gut wrenching agony of grief. At birth you anticipate the memories to be made with this new individual; at death you are punched with the awareness that there will be no more memories made. At birth you savor each word used to announce the arrival; at death each word used to announce the passing cuts like a knife. When a baby is born, you are eager for the remarks from well-wishers; but consolation comments often only deepen the pain with their insensitivity.
And so we cling to Jesus as we figure out how to move forward without feeling like we are leaving our brother behind. We are savoring the newness of our new son, celebrating his miraculous life while grieving the precious life ended all too soon. And through it all we look to the Sovereign God, the Author of Life, the Beginning and the End.