Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away

When one suffers a loss, the death of a family member, a friend, a loved one, a colleague, or someone who was a positive influence, one often listens then to tributes at the funeral or memorial about how having had this person in one's life was such a gift.

This is true, and when someone dies, it is very important to remember that the time that you have had with him or her, no matter how short, was a great gift and treasure.

Read sometimes the obituaries of average people, strangers, as I do, and think about what a gift he or she was to their family as they recite who passed before them, who survives and mourns them, and their accomplishments, including "homemaker," or their interests if they were just a child.

When you are thoughtful about what a gift that person was to you, this brings you on the threshold of understanding what is one of the great "mysteries" of life. Why do people die?

That is the wrong question. The thing to remember is that God has given everyone that gift of life in the first place. When you mourn your loved one it is then that those of faith are somewhat in awe of what a great gift every life is in the first place.

The great gift from God is life of an individual, each of whom is unique and having received the gift of life from God is, in his or her turn, a gift to his or her parents, family, loved ones, friends and colleagues.

Life, therefore, is a gift to the person but also the gift of that person to the world.

God does not "recycle" gifts. Each person's soul is born out of God's love, creating that new individual, giving him or her the gift of life and therefore a gift too to all who surround that person in life, no matter how humble. In fact, the greatest of all gifts, life, is given equally to rich or destitute, and often the much loved treasure of the poorest of the poor.

There is a string attached to each gift of life, and that string is to God's heart, so that when that person dies, they return to their creator. Thus, when someone dies, we often say, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Yes, he gives that immeasurable gift of a new life when a baby is conceived, and like every treasure of the finest, God does not "re-gift" or let that treasure of life go out in the trash. It takes a lot of effort to snap the cord to God and defy his wish for eternal salvation in his arms for each and every person. But too many do it, far too many. Yet God never closes the way, he is not the one to remove the string, but chronic sin and defiance "frays" the string until the persons themselves snap the cord, choosing then to spend eternity in the unbearable place without God.

So the question should not be "why do people die?"

The meditation should be about the goodness of God who makes from new a life, giving that life to the world, as a gift for however long or brief their span of mortal time. An immeasurable treasure, a loved one, is an unimaginable gift, whether of the infant who has such a short life due to illness or the person who lives many years to great old age, and all those in between. It's a gift that is not measured or compared by the length of time one has the gift. After all, even when the gift returns to God, you have the memories of your life shaped and shared by that person, and that never disappears. The gift IS life and the gift IS whatever the span of time of mortal being, and the two are one and the same. It's not a "better" gift because one has it longer. All and every life is a miraculous gift from God.

Believers and those of genuine good will can then live in the hope that they will see that person again, when their own gift of life returns to God.