Death Be Not Proud

Death is every man’s enemy from the time of our birth until we draw our last breath as it stalks us, hunts and hounds us doggedly and at last raises its white flag of “victory” over our fallen frame with lips and limbs that have taken up residency in the city of the silent.

American writer William Saroyan, before his death in 1981 telephoned the Associated Press, it was reported, with a final observation: “Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case.  Now What?”

Another Oxford University professor, Sir Isaiah Berlin, eulogized in Newsweek upon his death in 1997, known for his extraordinary academic achievements, was quoted in the Newsweek issue as saying, “I am afraid of dying, for it is painful.  But I find death a nuisance.  I object to it…I am terribly curious.  I’d like to live forever.”

Michael Faraday, brilliant scientist whose mind never allowed him to present suppositions as facts, when he was dying was asked how he viewed death and what he supposed would happen to him after dying.  He is said to have affirmed: “At the hour of death, no suppositions are admissible.  No experiences are permitted.  Only certainties give the peace one needs at the hour of death, and the certainty is that having found Jesus Christ as my Savior, I am going to be with Him when I die.”

John Bacon, eminent 18th century English sculptor, was quoted as saying on his deathbed, “What I was as an artist seemed to be of some importance while I lived, but what I really am as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only thing of importance to me now.”

Samuel Rutherford, 17th century theologian, said when he was about to step into eternity, “Mine eye shall see my Redeemer.  He has pardoned, loved and washed me, and given me joy unspeakable and full of glory.  Glory shines in Immanuel’s land!”

Poet John Donne wrote beautifully, “Death be not proud though some have called thee Mighty and Dreadful… for those whom thou thinkest thou dost overthrow die not, poor Death.  Nor yet canst thou kill me.”

We have agonized with many these past months; some family, some friends, some fellow sojourners on the journey called Life, have bid farewell to their dearest earthly loved ones.  Because of the dire Covid 19 restrictions, some saw and said a final farewell to their beloved as they were checked into a hospital.  Services and memorials were private or postposed.  Death has been heavy on the minds of all in an uncommon sort of way these past six months or so.

How do you view your final embarkment?  When your “crossing over” comes will you be at peace?  In his book “The Best is Yet to Be” Henry Durbanville recalled how, when he was a child, his mother would call “Henry, it’s bed time.”  Like most small boys, he said he resisted the idea of leaving his toys and going to his room for the night; yet, deep within he knew it was necessary to get the needed sleep.  Durbanville drew the analogy for believers: “Death is both affectionate and stern.  When the right moment comes, she says to us, ‘It’s your bedtime.’  Oh, we may protest a little, but we know very well that the hour for rest has come, and in our hearts, we are actually longing for it.”

On the other hand, if you are not a believer and have not accepted God’s saving grace and gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, you might do well to heed the Chinese proverb: “If we do not change our direction, we will end up where we’re going.”  A good question then to ask yourself is “Where will I be when I get to where I am going?”

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Romans 10:13)

“O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15:57,58)

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