17 October 2010
Something about dying
But I've been struck again by the glorious colors of autumn.
A bit of a science lesson makes sense about now.
This from a "why does this happen?" type website. Written for young students.
"Leaves are nature's food factories. Plants take water from the ground through their roots. They take carbon dioxide from the air. Plants use sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose. Oxygen is the gas that we breathe. Glucose is a kind of sugar. Plants use glucose as food for energy and as a building block for growing. The way plants turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugar is called photosynthesis. That word means "putting together with light." A chemical called chlorophyll helps make photosynthesis happen. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color.
As summer ends and autumn comes, the days get shorter and shorter. This is how the trees "know" to begin getting ready for winter.
During winter, there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The trees will rest, and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow and orange colors. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along. We just can't see them in the summer, because they are covered up by the green chlorophyll.
The bright reds and purples we see in leaves are made mostly in autumn. In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool nights of autumn cause the leaves turn this glucose into a red color. The brown color of trees like oaks is made from wastes left in the leaves.
It is the combination of all these things that make the beautiful foliage."
In a way the trees or at least the trees' leaves are dying. And it's in their dying that we see beauty.
Most westerners are clueless about dying and death. We're unaware personally since we are so separated from death and old people. They have their old folks' homes and we live with one or more parents. We get rid of old clothes and old mobile phones almost before the warranty expires. Dying...that's for others.
But to most of the rest of the world, dying is a part of life. It's a reality with which we all have to grapple. The rest of the world understands and things start and things end. All of us are born. Ecclesiastes (that book in the Bible) records "there is a time for everything...a time to be born, a time to die." So reality is that we will all die.
Is that going to be beautiful? I hope so for you and for your family. I hope so for me and my family. Not that I wish death on anyone. Certainly not. But reality is that we will all pass through this life only once, and we must make the best of it. Even making the best of the end of it.
When your processes start to shut down, and your time is at hand, do something even more than you did before. Do the best you can with what you have. Now-- you don't know what is ahead for you. Do it now.
And die beautifully. The trees know how to do that. And they are not advantaged by a mind or heart or spirit. Let God be all He wants to be in you. Give your life to the living One. He is the only One who will never (again) see death. God, the Creator of life, awaits you. And He awaits your willing responsiveness to Him. There is life. No matter your days, early or last days.
There's something (good) about dying. Paul the apostle wrote in Phil. 1.21 "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." It's not about offing yourself; that's not what he means. It's about giving up of yourself to help others, to proclaim Messiah to others. It's not about you at all!
Again Paul wrote the believers in Corinth. 1Cor. 15.31 "I protest, brethren, by the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily."
It's self-sacrifice, not self-mutilation. It's self-abandonment not self-aggrandisement . It's about living for God and others. How's that? There's something good about dying.