The eternal life I long for has never felt more real or certain to me than in the face of the death of those I love. This month, a friend thatI have known for most of my life was suddenly killed in a car accident. She was 23 years old. Full of life. She had just graduated from college and was beginning her career serving as a nurse in her hometown. Her whole life lay ahead of her—or so it seemed to those of us who knew her here on earth.
In tragic deaths like these (though is there really any death that is not best defined as tragedy?), we weep louder and longer because we cannot look back on a “full” life of years, but instead we look ever into the future that “they will never have,” but which in our minds seemed so certain for them. In the face of this dear one’s death, I am continually reminded of the reality that our days are numbered. This friend missed out on no earthly future, she missed not one of the days, hours, or moments allotted for her life. The imagined future we grieve over on her behalf is one she would trade a thousand and one times for the present she is now experiencing.
No, our grief is for us, and for the days we will not get to spend with her in our future. For this reason, I have always feared the prospect of facing the death of those I love. It aches in a way that I cannot verbalize, to imagine facing a day in which any of my family members are no longer breathing—no longer a mere phone-call away.
But I am beginning to see death in such a new way—though with no less hatred for the snuffing of life that is of the fall and tainted with sin—but with a new perspective. Each death will bring a new shade of sadness to my earthly life and a new wound in my heart that only the Lord Jesus will repair when He embraces me in His heavenly kingdom one day soon.
But with each death, I am also finding that my grip on earthly things is looser. My ties with this present evil age are slowly severed, one by one, as my mind is continually comforted by the knowledge of the heavenly reality that each dear friend has entered into. Worship each Lord’s day is renewed in its sweetness somehow, as I am all the more cognizant of the heavenly members whose praise my voice now joins; I know the timber of their voice from singing songs of praise together when they were on this side of glory—and I can almost hear their singing each Sunday morning, and I am lifted up and feel my heart straining to hear and be among those saints, the ones I miss so much—the echoes of whose voices I can almost hear belting out joyful praises to their King, face to face at last.
Perhaps this is a shameful thing to admit, but in some ways, I find heaven even more appealing as I think of those who’ve gone before me, and whom I cannot wait to see and sing with again. I find that I am chastened and reminded that what I love and long for most is not on earth but in heaven above. Not those whom I miss who have died, but Him, because of whom they live. These temporal deaths remind me of the life I long for and the one these friends have entered into. Heaven seems so much nearer as I can now imagine the faces of those who dwell there, near the King.
Oh, to dwell amidst the shadow of the One who lives in unapproachable light—and to approach Him! Alongside dear beloved brothers and sisters, the spirits of the righteous made perfect. Oh, what a better word His blood speaks. The opacity of heaven’s glory is ever so slightly made more translucent as the faces of its residents are revealed to me through the window that death provides. How I look forward to the day when the window will be a door and I will once again sing beside my brothers and sisters, in the courts of the King. May He give us more grace while we wait.