Where is thy sting, O Death!
Grave! where thy victory?
The clod may sleep in dust beneath,
The spirit will be free!
Both Man and Time have power
O’er suffering, dying men;
But Death arrives, and in that hour
The soul is freed again.
‘Tis comforting to think,
When sufferings tire us most,
In the rough stream the bark will sink,
And suff’ring’s power is lost.
Then, Death! where is thy sting?
And where thy victory, Grave?
O’er your dark bourn the soul will spring
To Him who loves to save.
The sting of death was etched into their faces as I watched the recent widow followed by the five daughters and son. They were flanked by a pastor, priest, and mortician, where they made their way to the throngs of family and friends who hugged, laughed, and cried. Some carried handkerchiefs, some wiped their wet hand on the inside of their pockets. Some clenched their jaw, refusing to ask, “Have I led a life worthy?” and “Will my soul spring?” and certainly not, “When will I suffer and who will tire most?”
Happy and poignant memories were traded for pot luck, sweet tea, and homemade Easter eggs.
“It still doesn’t seem real,” she was heard. As old as I get, as many times as I see it for myself, for all the times when sufferings tire me most, it still doesn’t seem real. We still expect them to come through the door or answer the cell phone that will never be answered but never erased. We see a shadow, we catch a glimpse out of the corner of our eye and at night we dream of days gone by. For a time, life is suspended, caught by earthly finality.
I whispered to myself, “Susan, have no regrets, for your life is a legacy of love and Rick was fortunate to have felt it.” But instead, I recommended rest, plenty of water and an occasional walk alone. “When are you coming down to visit us,” was followed by backing away so she couldn’t see the tears clouding my eyes and getting caught in my throat.
These days I feel deeply for those who have lost, and I pray for their gain. But I must confess, my frame of reference is my own loss and my own gain. And I have been humbled because as much as I’ve learned about myself, my world, and God; in the end I know nothing.
I have no time for those who can’t embrace their own fragility or recognize their ignorance. Yet I continually get drawn into their shallowness and am frustrated when I fail to see, they have no ears, they have no cares.
They have guarded themselves from the sting and feel protected in their world of one as they walk through life with no feet. They think they have gone far but have no eyes to see. And they have no voice because they talk only to an audience of one—themselves. You see, they have traded suffering a life of purpose for complaining about a life of chance. They have allowed themselves to become a sequence of playing cards to be shuffled and dealt in a game of greater chance than skill.
A minute of enduring their pettiness seems longer than soaking in an hour with those who know the sting of death. For it’s those people who are as real as the Velveteen Rabbit. The rabbit and the widow both know what it is to be loved. Both were stung but both are real.
This week someone else will suffer, and someone will be loved. My prayer for you is that you don’t shy away from either because they are one in the same and by doing so–you also will also become both. It’s a courageous step, but like the Duke said, “Courage is being afraid and saddling up anyway.” It is for our victory that I pray most. Godspeed, my friend. You are known, and you are loved.
“So, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” I Cor 15: 54-55.
Andy is a Clinical Psychologist who lost his son in a tragic motorcycle accident and now authors articles on bereavement. The quiz is available! Go to http://andymdavidson.com/Home/Pgd to find out if you may have Prolonged Grief Disorder. Look forward to his upcoming posts, and books. Follow him at his website, AndyMDavidson.com and Facebook.com/ThroughLifeandLoss to find out more about prolonged grief.