Some of you know I am a bit of a poetry junkie. I subscribe to a couple of poetry blogs … The Writer’s Almanac … Panhala … Poem of the Week. They are all different. The Writer’s Almanac is my favorite, as it has the widest breadth of poems from classic to modern, from rhythmic to free verse. Pahala has an inter-faith feel to it that I love, and Poem of the Week is more homey and old fashioned … kind of like an old shoe that isn’t very useful anymore, but you still like to put it on sometimes, cause it just feels good.
A week or so ago, however, my Poem of the Week blog tweaked me with these words from a poem with the same first line
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
My immediate visceral reaction was to almost cry out loud the word, No! Death is not “nothing! It IS NOT just slipping into another room!” That phrase is part of the problem with our world. We constantly try to convince ourselves that death can be avoided, while down deep we fear death more than ever. We watch it all the time, thanks to our news industry that can publish even the smallest and most local deaths that occur in people’s lives, coupled with a populace that can’t seem to do anything without capturing it on a cell phone and posting it on Facebook or Instagram.
Death is the ultimate “No” in our earthly lives. But as people of faith, we also know that this “No” is never the final word upon our lives. We are Easter people, who trust in a God who recognizes that death is part of life, but who takes away the permanence of death, by the promise that we will be raised again, just as Jesus was raised from the death. St. Paul reminds us …
When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’ (1 Cor. 15:54-55, NRSV)
So live today in the manner that God has fashioned you to live. Celebrate the gift of life with which you have been blessed. Grieve the deaths, both small and large, that occur in your life and in the lives of others. But recognize that with St. Paul, we have a different final chapter to our lives than the world feels it has. We can grieve the deaths we witness and experience, but they cannot overpower or control us. God is the God of life and death, and we are blessed to be able to see beyond the losses in this world that are resolved and erased in the world to come. We area Easter people.