Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalm 23:4).
Tonight, Lord, as I sit by the window watching the shadows deepen, I think about death, the passage to another life—eternal life. I too must travel that way. I don’t know when.
Each morning the newspaper brings news of those who died the day before. I check their ages. I pass over those who lived their allotted lifespan and then some.
But I linger over the obituaries of those who died while quite young—a fifteen-year-old in a car accident, a thirty-two-year old with no stated cause of death. But the word is already out that it was a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. And then there’s an infant who died at birth.
The spring of life is no time to die. Then, young people, like plants, rush into leaf and burst into bloom.
Nor is it time to die when you are strong and healthy. Nor when the much-anticipated retirement time arrives, bringing the opportunity to set aside former activities for the challenge of self-determined tasks.
It isn’t even time to die at my age. As long as I’m alive, every tiny cell in my body fights to hold off the invading enemy cells. But people die at every age, and the ranks of my friends are thinning with each year.
When I think about death, I’m like a child at play who doesn’t want to go to bed just yet Playing outside in the empty lot was always most fun at the magic moment just before Mother called us in. We couldn’t tear ourselves away to come in to wash up and go to bed.
I don’t want to die just yet.
I want to hear the Messiah sung against this Christmas.
I want to see my grandson graduate from high school and my granddaughter from middle school.
I want to hold in my arms my new great-grandchild and watch her learn to walk.
Today I laughed at Annette’s jokes until the tears ran. Tomorrow I want to laugh some more.
I want to hold my friend’s hand when she returns from the chemotherapy that doesn’t seem to help.
I want to tell my children again how much I love them. I never do it often enough.
And yet on the other side of the street stands a tree, bent by the wind, scarred by storms, bare of leaves. The city crew marked it with a big orange X, which means it will be cut down. It has finished living. Does it contemplate its dying? Does it fear it?
Am I afraid to die? Shall I be afraid when the time comes? It will come, I know.
At twilight, light loses and darkness wins. Yet night is the promise of day even as death is the promise of life and love and of the joy of your nearness, heavenly Father.
I don’t want to go just yet, Lord. But when I hear you calling it’s time to come in, I’ll be ready, for I trust your mercy. Amen.