22 August 2017

On death and dying


John Donne's famous poem splashed across my thoughts all day today. My long-time friend Dennis Krause passed away yesterday and I read about it this morning. He was unwell but lived life fully. In his youth, he was a member of a couple rock and roll bands, most notable to me, the Hallelujah Joy Band. What a champion he was, staying at the same church he joined back in the mid-70s, serving in music, on the sound desk, and just about anywhere he was needed. His wife, the lovely Anne, is now a widow, way too soon. So which Donne poem? The 10th Holy Sonnet, "Death, be not proud." I quote it in full then add my comments below.

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Maybe it's that I'm ageing at some new speed, but it seems that more people I know are dying. Last weekend in Kansas City, a group of friends from Shawnee Mission East High School class of 1969 remembered John Rooker, our former Senior Class President or Student Council president or such. Three men's memories stood out-- those given by Rick Daniels, Rick McNeely and his own brother Tom Rooker. Memories of days gone by. We come and go almost too quickly it seems.

Here in Australia a 7-year old boy is being remembered. He died in a horrible manner last Thursday in Barcelona, Spain. He and his mother were walking along Las Ramblas Boulevard, and according to Reuters today, "Julian Cadman was among the 13 people killed when a van driven by a suspected Islamist militant mowed down pedestrians in Barcelona... The boy was separated from his mother who was taken to hospital in a serious condition. Authorities in Australia and Britain had flagged he was missing since Thursday."

I don't know that anyone in Australia knows any other names of the 14 dead in Spain. There's something wrong, or just feels wrong, about the loss of a child. An innocent. Why did the Islamic terrorist feel that killing that boy was right? Why do we feel so badly about Julian Cadman being killed?

Maybe you remember the movie with Liam Neeson, Schindler's List from 1993, the Oscar-winning movie set during the Holocaust, where 6 million Jews and countless others were killed by madmen in uniforms. The scene highlighted in this still photo
makes the killing of millions personal. The girl in the red coat is one of unnamed thousands in the ghetto, gathered, escaping, hiding, caught. For some reason, when she is noted, we continue to watch for her, to care for her, to wonder what will happen to her. And isn't that what love does?

And maybe it's love, or a desire for love, that makes us so upset at the death of Julian Cadman. And the 13 others. It's one thing to note that 6,775 per day die in the US. But I only noticed two this weekend. Jerry Lewis, because the media made great mention of him here, and my friend Dennis. It's when death gets too close that we note it. But death is not the end. So said John Donne. There is eternity, and there is hope. "Death shall be no more." he said, "Death, thou shalt die"

Hosea, the Jewish prophet, wrote this, which no doubt influenced Donne. "Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting?" (Chapter 13, verse 14)

Paul the apostle picked up this notion and filled it full with his remarks recorded in 1 Corinthians chapter 15: "When this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, Where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (verses 54-57)

Donne and Paul and Dennis and I all have the same unwavering hope that those who put their faith in the Son of God, the Jewish Messiah Yeshua (many call him Jesus), will eventually join with the myriads in the company of heaven. It's heaven which is our eternal home, not Barcelona or Sydney or Warsaw. The grave is not our eternal resting spot. Finally John the Revelator wrote this in summary of the end of history as we know it. "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire." (Revelation 20.13-14) "Death, be not proud." We shall live again. And "death, thou shalt die."

3 comments:

Damien Ball said...

Thanks Bob for this wonderful and moving reflection. So comforting as we mourn.
Blessings, Annemarie Ball

Susan said...

It is hard to see so much hate in this world. I am sure that Jesus weeps for us and loves us so much. I am sorry for this dear child who died and for his mother who must be beside herself with so much grief. I pray that Y'shua, Jesus, will be a comfort to all who mourn on this day.

Sandiibeach said...

Beautiful piece Bob. Touching reflection.