On the same day that I made cookies and planned surprises for my husband’s birthday I got the message that another woman had lost her husband. I hung balloons and put on party clothes, she planned a funeral and put on mourning. I hugged my husband tight and whispered good morning. She buried his body and whispered goodbye.
She was much older than I, they had enjoyed a long marriage. But the pain of facing a life without the one who had been your life was a stark reality that day.
I hit a chipmunk that day too. On the way to take my husband to his birthday dinner. I saw the cute rodent scurrying across the road and then I felt him turn into nothing but a bump under my tire.
I started crying. Naturally. Because the thought of a heartbeat canceled, a life no more alive, had been on my heart all day. Yeah, it was a chipmunk and worse things could happen, but when a being is no longer being things get really heavy.
I didn’t mean to write about death this week. It was birthday week at our house. Meals out and doughnuts for breakfast and presents given. We were celebrating life.
But maybe we will celebrate life best when we understand the weight of death.
I don’t mean hugging your loved ones tight because they could die in a car accident and you might never see them again. This is a mentality wrapped around fear, and living out of fear – loving out of fear – ensnares us in shackles. Fear and freedom do not coexist.
No, we can’t love simply because we’re afraid of death. So what do we do when we receive news that someone has died, what do we do when we see the names of people we know hanging on the funeral notices bulletin board at the post office? How do we live in a world when people pass from it every day, and it’s only so long until someone you really care about is no longer here?
There’s a song that’s been playing on repeat in my house since Easter. Every morning I turn it on, I sing loud as I make the bed and brush my hair. “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death, come awake come awake, come and rise up from the dead.”
Wake up from the deep slumber. Stop walking in your sleep. Open your eyes. Walk away from the stupor, rub the haze out from your eyes and come awake to this life.
Be alert to the day, cease your lazy loving. Look around you and notice your life.
Come and rise up from the dead.
Death no longer binds us down. We can rise up from it and walk away from fear and into freedom. Come and rise up to life.
The bigger we live, the larger we love, the more audaciously we celebrate life, this is when we will escape the fear of death and experience the freedom to truly cherish life.
Hold each day as a gift, savor the moments, give thanks for your people. Anyone who has lost a loved one will tell you this. The exhortation is not meant to inspire an anxiety-driven love, but rather a gratitude-driven love.
Christ did not conquer death so that we could continue to stumble through our days, eyes glazed over, worrying about the end of this life but not really being aware of this life. He conquered death that we might come awake and live.
So we carry on with the celebrating. We light candles, we hang streamers, we hug tight and laugh loud. We will cherish this life until death do us part.