As If By Death

Commentary

This poem is a companion to one I wrote almost a month ago. It arises from a growing recognition of what it means to continue serving in a ministry when a close partner in ministry has left. What’s true in this case is probably true wherever close friends work together on something difficult and then one of them leaves. Picture soldiers in war, or parents in the child-rearing years. Even triumphs that follow that separation can feel hollow.

TWO INTERPRETATIONS
From the introductory paragraph, and from the way that I recorded the poem, it should be clear that “as if” introduces a comparison to a death that has not actually occured. It just feels like death. Going separate ways feels especially like death when the friendship is deeply valued. I’d guess most of us experience only a handful of such friendships in our lifetimes.

But the simile gains its power from something we all experience: the loss of friends and families through actual death. So, if it helps you draw out an emotion, read the poem in that second way. Turn it on its head. Let the “as if” introduce a comparison of actual death to abandonment. When a loved one dies, do they leave us alone? It’s as if they do! They’re gone for now. We need to acknowledge that emotion, to be honest about it, even if we live in hope of the Resurrection. One comfort of that hope is this: if stories of what we experience while separated by death are worth remembering and relating, I imagine we’ll be able to share those stories hundreds — or billions — of years from now.

AN EXAMPLE OF THE SECOND INTERPRETATION
Over the last two years, I have grown in the direction of kindness, something I pray for almost daily. God is using current events to soften my unkind heart. I have come to care for things that I didn’t care for in years past, and to not care for things that I cared for too much in years past. In this process, I often wonder how my father would have responded to the same current events. Would he have grown bitter, as I see some growing? He was making progress — looking more like Jesus — right up to his death in late 2016. Had he still been living, would we have seen together what I now see alone? I imagine so. But because he and I share another Friend, and because that Friend secures our eternal life, we may some day look back together on what we now see apart. Oh, the stories that — reunited — we’ll share!

Eternal life. That’s my hope. Is it yours?

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