The moment my brother died fifteen years ago, a new understanding entered my life. I had spent 22 years without this knowledge – and hoped it would be much longer until I acquired it – but it came to me earlier than expected.
On October 26, 1996, I learned what Death is; what it looks like, what it smells like, what it feels like. I learned how someone can go from “here” to “gone” in a matter of moments. I learned how Death permeates every aspect of Life, and how the two can never be divorced from each other. I found out that Death is sneaky and hateful, but it can also be redeeming and a relief. Death broke my heart and fractured my sense of self. Death is a thief; it took the precious away from me. But Death is also a giver, if you’re willing to accept the gift it has to offer.
In the long run, Death saved me. It stripped away the person I thought I was, and I was left with an emptiness I had never known. Death broke me to the core of my soul, and caused me to turn away from the things I loved: my pride, my accomplishments, my history. I also turned away from God, angry at Him because He didn’t save Jackson from cancer. I told Him I didn’t need Him anymore and decided to rely on myself instead.
Fast forward fifteen years, years full of grief and growing and experiencing and trusting. I am ungraciously accepting the “gifts” Death has given me: the impetus to live life with intention, knowing there are no guarantees for tomorrow. Death also gave me a deeper sense of right and wrong, and the drive to live without regrets. Death taught me to say words of love more often. It made my marriage stronger and it gives me more reasons to hug my kids. And after walking through Death’s valley and taking the hand of the only One who can guide me out, I have an unshakable belief in God’s never-ending goodness.
Most of all, Death gives me hope. A hope in the future when God will restore those who follow His Son, and the hope of a glorious reunion with those I so desperately miss and the One who has never left my side.
The hardest part is waiting for that time to come. Reunion sounds pretty awesome on days like today, when I ache with longing to hear Jackson and Mom and Dad’s voices. But I don’t want that reunion quite yet, if it means separation from the loves I am surrounded by in this life.
Hope is what holds me together as I wait for the days to come.