The Facts of Death

August 28, 2012

Excerpt from 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

"The last enemy to be destroyed is death."

Reflection by Martin B. Copenhaver

Most parents seem to be able to remember the time they explained to their children what are sometimes called "the facts of life."   I don't remember much about such conversations with my own children - except, as I recall, their frequent use of words like "yuck."

What I do remember with blazing clarity, however, are the conversations I had with them about the facts of death.

Our daughter Alanna's first confrontation with death hit like a surprise thunderstorm.  She was six years old.  She and a little friend of hers encountered a dead frog crushed on the dirt road next to our house.  At the time Alanna was, as she put it, "the master" of a pet frog.  She adored that frog, so I imagine it was particularly difficult to see one of her frog's wild cousins flattened on the road.

To make matters worse, her friend offered some worldly commentary:  "There's nothing to get upset about.  Everyone ends up like that… you, that frog, your mother, your father, your brother…"  (I never did like that kid.)

Alanna responded by running home in tears.  I still remember - without wanting to remember - the grief-stricken look on her face as she burst through the door.  I remember scrambling to find something to say, desperately trying to control a conflagration of grief when it felt like all I had was a teaspoon with which to douse it.  I held her as she cried for what seemed like hours.  One's first encounter with death is never a trifling thing.

When we get older we sometimes speak of death in sanguine ways.  We might say, for instance, "It's a part of life," or, "She will always be with us in spirit."

My children, however, seemed to know from the start that death is serious business.  Death is an enemy, and a greedy one at that.

The victory we have over death in resurrection is not a victory over some trifle.  No, it is an enormous victory to be celebrated as only victory over an ominous enemy can be celebrated - with joyous echoes in every cell of our being.

Prayer

God, thank you, from the deepest depths, for the victory you have won for me over that great enemy - death.

About the Author
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. He is the author, with Lillian Daniel, of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers.

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