As a dog runs to the end of its tether and jerks to a hard, sudden stop, so death yanks us from the sprint of arrogance to the realization that we are not gods but small, fragile creatures, depandent on the Master who made us. Just like the chain that keeps my dog from her headlong urge toward traffic, death keeps us from plunging into the eternal abyss. The terible jolt of mortality is far kinder than self-exile from the center of all life and good.
Death is also the great clarifier of what matters. Very few human persuits stand in the face of death. In its presence we are sobered of our shallow dissipations, automatically asking ourselves the central, evaluative question of life, "Does my time mean something?" We all leave a funeral reminded to cherish our loved ones and live well the ticking seconds we have left. In that respect, death is not a curse that robs life, but a touchstone to better life. Every person who passed away before me speaks to me still the value of their own life and the short time I have to make my own worth eulogizing.
Finaly, death is the dark shadow that offsets the brillient light, the terror that helps us define joy. I can't imagine how excruciating it was for my friend Curt to deliver his son's eulogy today, but it was one of the most beautiful and true writings I have ever heard. I would never wish for his son's death, but in light of it, Curt crafted a work of art that took the shit of sorrow and miraculously turned it into glory. From a devine perspective, perhaps this is what death was intended for, not the ugly end of good, but the turning of end into beginning, not the hopeless darkness, but the black canvas onto which a greater hope's light is painted in all it's vibrance. And if glory is the final product, then death is part of the glory. It is the awful plunge into what becomes new and infinite life. What has always felt like a curse to those of us who have not yet made the plunge is, in fact, part of a larger blessing that takes suffering and turns it to joy.
I don't wish for anyone's death, but every time I get close to it, I wonder at it's power to do the work of God in my own heart and in the hearts of others. And today, as I grieve with my friends at the loss of their son, I thank God that He has so kindly made death a gift that ultimately leads to Himself, to unending life.