Fear Death?

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(This is an excerpt from the book Sunset.)

Is death the enemy? Surely it brought the ache within my heart that will not, perhaps must not be abated, but that soreness of soul is becalmed by a sense of peace and gratitude. Peace that she is at peace, and gratitude that my feelings for her have been intensified. These have been days of pain, the greatest I have ever known, but also of profound love. Nothing could possibly have shown me more than Laurie’s losing battle with cancer how very much I love her and will always love her. That above all else has been made crystal clear. Death, as part of that great plan of happiness and mercy, intensifies our need for each other like nothing else can. And so I am grateful for its lessons, though the cost is so immeasurably high. To love at all is to expose the soul to the possibility of pain. Only in the blackest regions of outer darkness is there no love, and that is a torment of its own kind and making. Here our grief would go, but only if the love departed also, and who would be willing to escape suffering at that price? No, rather we would bear an increase in our anguish to feel, to know beyond all misgivings, hesitations, disbeliefs, and doubts, the joy of being loved and of loving.

Many times, like most of us with those dearest to us, I have taken Laurie for granted, did not tell her enough how much she meant to me because, though I loved her and expressed that love, I did not know myself how deep the roots had grown. Now there is no doubt, no reservation—all is certainty, pure confidence. I cannot find the space within where I could say, “Here is the dwelling place she does not touch, where her absence is not missed.” I know—and I hope and believe that she now knows—how completely she dominates the soul and thoughts of her husband. She fills a place within that no other being and nothing else can. Therein is our joy and our distress at separation, the paradox of God’s earthly schooling, which wishes above all other considerations to teach men and women to become eternally one.

Time cannot heal or fill her absence, for time has no voice, or smile, or heart. I do not anticipate it will—only that I will grow familiar with the loss as it becomes a natural part of my life, not as debilitating and raw as it is now, but in attendance all the same. What can I place in that empty center that her presence once filled? Hours? Months? Years? The only replacement for the absence of Laurie is Laurie. Nothing can truly make up the loss of those we love, and in some sense it would be unwise to attempt to do so. Endurance is what God asks of us, and endure we must, but it need not be a distressing endurance. We hold on until reunion ends our wanting. It is not easy, but we feel the love while we wait, and love is always a good thing to fill a heart. God himself cannot replace the absence, nor do I believe He wishes to do so. Though He would soothe the wound, complete healing is not the desired outcome. Leaving it tender preserves the seal between us, draws us ever toward each other again. All this even at the terrible price of some of our bitterest tears. Death has taught me thus. Please do not misunderstand: happiness may be found within the bonds of new relationships, but those will be formed in open places of an expanding heart, without invading the sanctity of love already lodged there.

I do not fear death anymore, though I felt its dreaded footfalls each day I woke and looked at my wife sleeping beside me. My own passing will bring reunion, which reunion is now my most sincere prayer. I do not pray for death, nor wish it to come for me early, but for the assurance of eternal oneness with Laurie. Since death is the portal to the flowering of that oneness, when it comes I will not turn from it. I once viewed it from the perspective of the plan of salvation; now it is personal.

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