What if Death is Independence Day?

As a human being, we fight many battles on many fronts. Children’s battles are mostly local skirmishes fought on a relational level – with parents, or with other kids. Then our intellect matures and the battle moves simultaneously inward and outward – inward battles with ourselves and our emotions and our intentions; outward battles with the “great ideas” surrounding politics and theology and philosophy. We wonder about how life should be lived.

Rarely during those early years did I glimpse the “war to end all wars”: in other words, death. Battles with death came as flashing sorties when a grandparent died or a friend tragically passed at an early age. Yet death, at least in my life, made so few inroads during those early years, and I could almost pretend that death did not exist.

Sometimes, now that I’m in my thirties, I begin to feel as though death is closing in all around me. I am on a hill, and the plains in every direction are filled with the combatants of the great enemy, enemies approaching at whatever pace they wish. Cancer, heart disease, old age: they press in and force me to acknowledge their existence.

My college roommate’s father died just two days ago. I remember him as a kind, humorous man who let us trash his house one night when we were freshmen and the world was ours. Then he made us eggs in the morning. He came to every soccer game. He had a kind face and, more than anything else, you could tell that he had both a deep love and a deep concern for my roommate, his son.

Hearing news of my friend’s father’s death sent my mind thinking back through the mounting list of friends and family who have passed away in recent years. There is no use pretending anymore.

Death is coming for all of us.

But what if death isn’t the end? What if it isn’t the day that your switch gets turned off but the day you get plugged in to a new power source? What if it’s not your dead body trapped in a box six feet underground but actually the moment your soul is finally free?

Today I mourn with my friend over the passing of his father.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

But I am also beginning to recognize a weakness in the formation of death. There is something that I sense about it, and as I press in to this new awareness a question rises to the forefront of my mind:

What if the day I die is actually my own personal Independence Day?

11 Replies to “What if Death is Independence Day?”

  1. Well said. I often think about death that way too This month marks the 20th anniversary of my mom’s death to cancer. I know that she is experiencing freedom beyond words because of her relationship with Christ. Can’t wait to celebrate with her someday!

  2. Shaun this is very beautiful. We have been reflecting here on the many ways that life doesn’t always go the way you want it to and death is I guess the definitive rebuttal to youth’s assumption of invincibility. And if we can’t control our fates, then all we have to offer is the quality of our response. The patient adherence to hope where there is, apparently, no hope is one of those treasures that sounds lame perhaps to a young person and only shows its true worth gradually, as it is experienced? An example of success – beyond success. My deep sympathies to your friend.

    1. Beautifully said, Paula. My uncle always says, “My response is my responsibility” – a cheesy-sounding saying at first, but one with a lot of wisdom in it.

  3. I too think about death more and more at 32. I started cholesterol meds this year and thought, “I really need this? Wow. I guess I’m not 21 anymore.” :)

    I am intent of living to the fullest here and now – on punching life smack in the kisser with brass knuckles. God made too many wonders in this world for us to ignore them, so I am trying to enjoy them and celebrate them and thank Him for them. So I try to be mindful of death without letting it eclipse the beauty of the very fragile, very transient present.

    I think about death too as I become a father. I want to be around for my daughter. I want her to know me. I want to entertain her and teach her and tickle her and show her “Star Wars” too many times. I wonder how many years of my life have eroded away from stress and worry and obsessive dedication to endless projects. :) I hope I have not lost too many along the way.

    I hope that the story of Jesus is true, and that His resurrection will be mine as well. He is my hope. I doubt. But He is my hope. So I live with a mindfulness of death and the intent to celebrate life. To pet our five cats, to create constantly, to prepare for being a dad, to be a good husband and son and brother, etc. So many gifts to savor! :)

  4. Great post Shawn,
    As a person living with ALS, I can honestly say my Independants Day will be when I take my final breath. That will be the day I wil have defeated this monster!

  5. …Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

    I think I need to learn how to mourn. Whatever I’ve been doing hasn’t been comforting at all.

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