Here is fair warning. I am about to write a couple of articles on the topic of death, more or less. I would blame it on the fact that I just turned sixty but that wouldn’t quite be true. Even as a young person it seemed to me that I thought more about death than the average teenager. Don’t misunderstand me. I wasn’t thinking about my own death in particular nor did I ever contemplate taking my life. I certainly didn’t talk about death with my friends. But the inevitability of death has always hummed along in the background accompanying my life. Perhaps it is because my mother died when I was just an infant. I remember passing my thirty-third birthday with some sense of accomplishment. On that day, I had outlived my mother. Perhaps it is because I spent my early childhood in my grandparents’ home. Grandpa was born in 1888 and Granny just a few years later. Granny and I would pore over old photographs, some of them tin- types, of their long-dead friends and relatives. My mother’s face peered up at me regularly in black and white as I tried to imagine her voice and her personality. I grew up hearing stories about trips taken in a covered wagon, a circuit riding preacher great-grandfather, and some distant relative who carried a knife he allegedly found on a civil war battlefield. You could say I grew up in the company of old people.
My granny sang old hymns in the early mornings while she made breakfast. Many mornings I woke up listening to her belt out, “In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.” When my uncle went to pick her up and take her to the hospital, just a few days before she died, he found her sitting in the chair on her front porch, dressed as if for church, a small suitcase packed beside her. She had called him because she was in terrific pain. I suspect she knew she would not be coming home. She had no fear of death.
I would like to think I have acquired Granny’s outlook on life and death. My step-mother is the same. She is a delight to be with and has a great attitude even though she goes to a funeral every couple of weeks now. At ninety-three she knows her days are numbered. I try to keep a sense of humor about growing old. For example, I know where I will eventually be buried. It’s an old family plot in southern Oklahoma where my grandparents, an aunt and uncle, and my mother are buried. When I told my plans to one of my uncles, he said, “Well, that’s wonderful! On the great gettin’ up mornin’ you won’t have to introduce yourself to the folks around you!” Maybe I get my sense of humor from him? Of course, knowing Jesus helps. Our future is bound securely with Him who defeated death.
So, you have been warned.