This is a Tribute to my Dad, Whom death claimed as its own!
I remember it was 5:15 AM on a Saturday morning when I was awakened from my sleep by the nonstop ringing of my phone. On the other side of the line was my oldest sister gasping to breathe. She was very upset and crying; she was attempting to convey so much in a few words. She let me know that our dad had passed away and that I should come to her house immediately. Thinking that this was perhaps a bad dream, I stumbled into the bathroom trying to wash my face. However, the undeniable reality of my father’s death was sinking in. As I was driving to her house, my mind was flooded with images and memories of the man I knew as Dad. All the times we laughed and cried together, all the family meals and stories we experienced were now just memories, to be cataloged and stored away. When I arrived at her house, there was a lot of our family there, some were crying, while others were remembering the best times they had together. The painful reality unfolding was that I was now fatherless, and my time with my dad ran out. There won’t be any more holidays spent together, or any more wise advice or encouragement from the man who has shaped my life so much. I slowly realized that I won’t have any more time with the dad I knew and loved.
We spent the rest of the morning remembering his life and within a couple of hours two gentlemen showed up with a gurney and a body bag. They placed my father’s lifeless body in the body bag, then moved his body to the gurney. Standing in the corner of the room sobbing, as I watched this scene unfold, it finally hit me. My father was gone, and I will not see him again in this life. As I followed the gentlemen pushing the gurney, with my mom by my side, I remember asking myself -Is this it? All our lives so intertwined with his, and now all vanished in a second, all gone with the wind. At that moment, I detested death and all the pain it inflicted with all that was inside of me. They put the gurney in the van and with our whole family watching, the van drove away. I leaned over to my mom and whispered, “One day death will be defeated Mom, and we will see him once again.” My mom, now widowed, crying, looked away.
Today would have been his 65th birthday, but this year he is no longer with us. No amount of money or anything else can return even a few extra seconds with him, at least not in this lifetime. I grew up admiring his strength and vigor. For the most of his life, he was a healthy and strong man. He embodied all the qualities I hoped to have. Like every man, he had his imperfections and faults, but unlike every man he had a deep passion for the Lord, which he tried to instill in our family and me. He spent his life being devoted to the cause of Christ, but he also had his doubts, sins, and shortcomings. In the last two years of his life, his health took a turn for the worse. He spoke a lot about death and wondering about what’s beyond the grave. I saw his health slowly failing and soon he could no longer do the most basic of things. My dad finally succumbed to his sickness and on that fateful April morning, he left us.
It seems death claimed another one, and as much as I would like death to be defeated, it’s still a reality for all of us. Year by year we lose our loved ones to it, and it seems it will never end. It’s a battle that we keep on losing day by day. We see death’s early claims on us in the wrinkles on our faces, we see it in our hair getting grayer every day, we see it in pain in our joints and sickness in our bodies. It seems like we are powerless to do anything about it. We slowly give up hope and the will to fight. Every funeral and tombstone is a constant reminder of the battles we have lost. The cruelty of death is its perceived finality, and when time runs out, it does not care whom we are, or what unfinished business we have left behind. Death is merciless, regardless of our objection and protest.
People have died before, but why is this separation so hard? What is it in us that rebels against death and considers it unjust? Where do we get this sense that death is unjust and unnatural? Because to revolt against an injustice, one must first know what justice is. Hence to revolt against death is to have a sense that death is some injustice against the way things ought to be. This longing is in all of us; we crave the day where all oppression and injustice will cease. We want death defeated. We want the death of death.
To see the demise of death is something we strive for. This hope is seen in stories and films where goodness fights against evil and the battle is always between life and death. We secretly cheer the underdog to overcome the power of fear, evil, and death. We want justice for the injustice, and we want freedom for the ones who are in bondage. We want the death of death. We want life to prevail.
But is this hope grounded in truth? Can we do away with death? The famous poet John Donne says yes. In his famous poem, “Death be not Proud.” Donne chastises death for being proud of its accomplishments. He reminds death that it too is temporary, and it too shall die. Donne is no stranger to death; he lost so many of his close loved ones to its battles, but he is also a firm believer in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is almighty God who became a man like all of us. He too died like many other men. When death proclaimed its greatest victory over him; this time was different. Unlike all history, this God/Man broke death’s chains and set himself free; and with that, Jesus made the death of death a certainty.
We might have lost some battles, but Christ has won the war. If we die with Him, then with Him we will also rise, and death in turn itself will die. When death dies, it will taste its poison and lose its grip on us. It will raise its white flag and surrender to the source of life. In a split second it will be done away with, like a bad memory, and a horrible nightmare; with all of its vices and prison cells, all gone with the wind, to the fire of hell.