Commentary

Darkness, sin and death defeated

Originally Appeared in : 9909-4/25/19

Now in my 60s, I am confronted with death more frequently and intimately. The deaths of my parents were the first I faced intimately. Although they died years apart, I was present at both of my parents’ bedsides as they were in the final stage of life.

 

I am the oldest surviving generation of my family, like many my age. I also more frequently face the deaths of my contemporaries. Many celebrities, politicians, and other notable figures whom I remember from my early life have died. It has become common when remembering a figure from the past for me to ask myself, “I wonder if he is still alive.” A quick Google search provides an answer.

 

I confess that sometimes I fear dying. Perhaps I should rephrase that: I am less fearful about the act of dying. I fear missing out. But I don’t dwell on this fear of missing out. I prefer to live with the knowledge of my mortality always in the back of my mind, so I don’t risk taking my life for granted.

 

I think of my friend Janice who died at age 60 before she could experience the joy of being a grandmother, a joy I have known for over six years now. I console myself that Janice is experiencing the life she left behind in a new and glorious way.

 

When contemplating my own death, I remember the people who have died before me, those I knew and loved, and the multitudes I never knew. I sense that we are all connected, and, because of that, they will guide me along the journey as my earthly life ends.

 

Just as I have no idea what to expect when visiting a new place and rely on guides and experienced travelers, I will rely on the communion of saints to lead me to my new destination. And I pray that the joy I know on this earth is only a foretaste of what is to come.

 

As an adjunct English instructor, I have taught literature off and on for over 30 years. One theme in literature is our human response to knowing we shall die. Some poems have a “carpe diem,” seize the day, theme. Carpe diem poetry touched me even when I was in my 20s. A poem by A.E. Housman, “Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now” resonated then and resonates even more now. The poet writes, “And since to look at things in bloom/50 springs are little room/about the woodlands I will go/to see the cherry hung with snow.”
Housman is reflecting on what he estimates his lifespan at that time (late 19th century). Age 20, he assumes he will have only 50 more opportunities to experience the beauty of spring. As it happened, he wasn’t too far off. Housman died at age 77. The poet compares the cherry blossoms to snow because they are white and because, like snow, they will disappear. Snow evokes winter and death.

 

Remembering that my time on earth is finite is not morbid. The older I grow, the faster the years spin by. If I’m fortunate, I may have another 20 to 30 more springs. And that hope allows me to delight in this spring in a way I might not otherwise.

 

Of course, as Christians, we believe that life doesn’t end; it changes. And the prospect of death as a transition rather than a stopping place is tremendously comforting. Spring is our opportunity to reflect on the overwhelming power of life.

 

I was trimming a shrub in my garden yesterday and could scarcely reach the top. Shoots had sprouted to the heavens. And everywhere we see fine pollen dust everything, causing misery to many. But, in fact, it’s a yellow testimony to nature’s force of life.

 

Easter arrives late this year, and its late arrival allows us to experience a prelude to the Resurrection by living through it vicariously in nature. The risen Christ is surrounded by the glory of God’s creation. All we must do is see with the eyes of faith: eyes not focused on the darkness but focused on light. Indeed, as Easter people, this focus should always be our perspective. Christ, once and for all, conquered darkness, sin, and death.

 

Mary Hood Hart is a freelance writer and educator living in Pittsboro, NC. She can be reached at maryhoodhart@gmail.com

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