Archive for the ‘#death’ Tag

When the Bell Tolls   3 comments

If you had the option to know the date of your death, would you want to know?

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The short answer is no, but there’s a longer answer that’s more nuanced. No surprise there to regular readers of this blog.

First, I don’t fear death. As a Christian, I believe death is a gateway to God’s kingdom where I will live forever in the presence of my Savior and some of my family and friends will be there also. No worries about death darken my mind. If I knew I was dying, I might be sad to be leaving some people and things behind, but a moment after I die, I won’t care because my existence will be wonderful. I believe that. Enough on that topic.

When I saw the topic, my mind went immediately to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene. He KNEW the hour of His death and it hurt so bad He sweated drops of blood. That’s actually a thing, by the way. In times of intense stress, some people secret iron, which oxidizes in the air and looks like blood.

Can you imagine knowing that you were going to die the next day and your death would be horribly painful?

I wouldn’t want to know that. I think that’s why in movies where the “hero” knows he’s going to die, you see a lot of frenzied effort in trying to reverse that inevitability. Or else they run around trying to make amends to the people they were estranged from. While that’s nice – to die with some closure in your damaged relationships – I think knowing the date of your death would keep you not focused on the here-and-now.

I could die anytime within the next 40 years. My mother’s family routinely live into their eighties and nineties and a few have broken the century mark. So I could live a long time, yet. Or I could get stomped to death by a moose tomorrow. If I knew I was going to live to be 100, I think I might not live life as urgently as I do now.  Maybe I wouldn’t say “I love you” to the people I care about quite so often. Maybe I’d dawdle in writing books. Maybe I wouldn’t go out onto the deck to watch the northern lights as often because “well, I’ve got 40 years to do these things.” Of course, knowing the date of my own death wouldn’t mean I’d know the date of my loved ones’ deaths. The other day, the UAF Geophysical Institute announced we’re entering a period of solar minimum. Now I’m wishing I’d seen more auroral displays last winter since they will be rare for the next few years. I’ve published eight books in the last four years and I can’t help wonder how many books I might have published if publishing had been different when I was younger.

Do you see what I’m getting at? I’ve missed a lot of opportunities because I thought I had time. As time now catches up with me, I look back and think “Wow, if I’d lived life like a moose would stomp me to death tomorrow, think about the things I would have done.” I can still do them and I think I have a few decades, but if I knew I was going to die in a year or two, I would stop publishing series because I wouldn’t want to leave my audience hanging. Would the world mourn that loss? I doubt it. But I would mourn that creative output.

Meanwhile, if I thought a moose would stomp me to death tomorrow, I might seek to avoid that fate rather than live my life and I don’t want to stop living in order to go on existing.

Not knowing the date of my death gives my life freshness and forces me to do things in the moment, but not put so much intensity into it that I look like one of those freaks in the movies who try to make amends with people they’ve hated in the last 24 hours of their lives. I live today as if tomorrow my life might end and I’ll have to face God with today’s sin to explain, and so I’m always trying to improve my contact with God and my relationships with others. But I also plan for the next four decades because I don’t know what’s coming and those plans give me joy and structure.

So, no, I don’t want to know the hour of my death. I don’t need to hear the bell toll. 

Posted November 19, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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For Whom the Bell Tolls   4 comments

We’ve all experienced loss, what is a loss that has really struck you? Compare losing someone you knew with someone you didn’t, and your thoughts on how it affected you.

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Related imageI was an orphan by the time I was 22 years old. My parents were older when they had me and so they died when I was pretty young. It’s been over 30 years for Mom and 40 years for Dad. I can’t say I miss them anymore. I do wonder what our relationship would have been like had they lived longer. But at some point, grief just seems … silly. What’s’ the point of it? I guess I’m a product of my mother’s farming background … where death is just another part of life. I grieved at the time and then I moved on. I remember my parents fondly, I have some questions I wish I would have thought to ask them when I was a kid, but I no longer grieve their passing because I focus on life rather than death.

I remember when Elvis Presley died. The story came across the radio at work and some of my coworkers were sad about that. I was 16 years old and I don’t think I’d ever known a time when Elvis had not been a part of my life. My mother truly enjoyed his music. But my reaction to his death was different from theirs. I was sad for his daughter, but not sad for myself. I didn’t know him. Whether he was dead or alive didn’t really affect my life. And I think that’s been my attitude as any famous person has died … it doesn’t affect my life so why would I grieve?

Same sort of feeling with 911. I felt horror at the thought of all those people dying, but I don’t mark it as a special day of mourning every year because to me that would be living in the past and that’s not how I choose to live my life.

But some deaths are more personal than others.

When my friend Dick Underwood passed, I felt profoundly sad for myself because I would not see him again this side of heaven. I can still get a little choked up over that two years later. But that feeling of grief was and is tempered by the knowledge that as Christians we will see each other in heaven. I anticipate Dick paddling some celestial river in a canoe and I smile when that image comes to mind. For Dick, death was an upgrade not a tragedy and so, for me to remember his death is not really sad.

I used to work in a mental health-focused nonprofit. About nine years ago, a schizophrenic patient stabbed one of my coworkers to death. I wasn’t there when it happened. I found out about it the next morning. The feelings I had that day and in the months and years since are powerful – angry at the client (we’ll call him Brian) for taking this young woman’s life and at the staff psychiatrist who ignored warnings that this client was off his meds and had a history of violence, sad for Genine’s husband of only a few months, perplexed at the rage my coworkers aimed at the Executive Director rather than at the client or the psychiatrist, irritation at the judge who kept fracking with the case trying to cause a mistrial because he disagreed with Alaska’s governing law of guilty, but mentally ill …. Unlike “innocent by reason of insanity” the Alaska legal standard means Brian will go to prison for the rest of his life if he ever convinces a medical board that he’s sane enough to be released from the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. It does not risk this dangerous man getting out to hurt someone again. It recognizes that, while he is a schizophrenic, he is not the victim in this case — Genine was. That the judge disagrees with the standard … well, he’s been removed from office by a vote of no confidence by Alaska voters. Fitting … as fitting as the psychiatrist no longer being allowed to see patients at the local hospital. She still has her private practice, but she doesn’t have hospital privileges, which means she can’t work for a mental health agency any longer.

Probably the most salient thing to know about that experience is that I am pissed off that State law denied Genine the right to protect herself from Brian. When he pulled a big butcher knife all she could do was run and when she stumbled in the snow outside the emergency exit, he stabbed her three times in the back. In my current job, when we did an active shooter training, the FBI asked us how many of us had a plan for in case an active shooter came into our building. My plan is to take cover, let the shooter pass me by, and shoot the shooter in the back from my position of cover. The FBI trainer agreed that would probably save a lot of lives and only suggested that I put my gun down before the cops got there … which I already knew. So yeah, Genine’s death definitely left a permanent impression on me.

Now you sort of know what I have felt about different deaths I’ve experienced. I have a spectrum of reactions, highly dependent on the facts surrounding those deaths.  Everything that happens to us as humans can be used in our writing … even if that experience was germain to someone near us and not to us personally. In writing about Shane and Jill’s reactions to the bombings in Life As We Knew It, I drew from my observations of what my coworkers experienced when Elvis died and what I experienced right along with them on 911. Some of my descriptions of what Shane (who has PTSD) experiences in stressful situations are drawn from what I experienced while working at mental health. I also was a psychiatric transcriptionist for a while and sometimes I’m drawing on what I learned from the sessions I transcribed. Grief comes in many flavors and makes wonderful conflict for our stories.

So, we should go check out what my fellow blog-hoppers have to say on this topic. Has death coming knocking for them as well?

Posted August 27, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Wild & Free Forever   2 comments

Sunrise (whose blog nickname has been Goldeneyes) passed into the realm of “wild and free forever” yesterday about noon.

Related imageAt 14, it was not unexpected. She’d had a cancerous tumor removed in February and we knew it could come back. But she wasn’t bowing to age. She still jumped over the back of the couch and was always ready to go for a ride. She could still run pretty fast and swim like the water dog she was. Her molten gold eyes were always smiling and she absolutely loved her people dearly.

In earlier years she had tried to catch a beaver — and almost had it landed when her companion dog, the black-hearted pirate Friday, let go. And this after she taught her elder how to swim. Disgraceful! She enjoyed catch-and-release — the neighbors’ chickens would get out, she’d catch them and bring them to us uninjured. She never quite understood why we took them back. She wasn’t afraid of heights like most dogs so she would cross a log bridge rather than swim a swift current. She was at once very smart and a total goof, domesticated by the belly rub. She was the only Lab I’ve ever met who would be trusted with a full bag of dog food. She’d eat just what she needed to not starve to death and leave the rest for later. She once ate mushrooms while we were on a camping trip and freaked out in the tent (thought Brad was an ogre, we think). Once released, she ran off down the trail and attacked the Davidson Ditch, a metal aquaduct. I’m thinking she thought it was a giant metal snake. She wasn’t particularly brave – kind of scared of the woods and if someone was yelling around her, she’d hide, but she’d do things that you could tell terrified her just because she wanted to be with us. Back when she was still a young puppy and hadn’t convinced Brad to like her yet, she stole his shoes once — picked them up from the Arctic entry way and carried them to her favorite cozy spot, put them side by side, but didn’t chew them up. He thought he was losing his mind until he found them. They were friends after that. She was extremely empathetic, could sense our emotions, and was always ready to listen and love us. She was a great companion, a loving friend, a tireless hiker, a sweet soul and she went out on her own terms.

Image result for image of female yellow field labTuesday night, she seemed tired and she declined going “wild and free” – a holiday evening tradition when she was allowed to race the streets in pure abandon. This is what comes from a Lab being raised by a husky – a water dog who enjoys running. She spent the night watching us sleep. Every time I opened my eyes, she was there with a loving grin on her face. In the morning, when I let her go out to pee, she had trouble coming up the stairs, like it exhausted her. But she was still smiling. We agreed she probably needed to go to the vet today, that the cancer was probably back and she was in pain. We were torn on whether to euthanize her or get her pain meds so she’d enjoy her last few days. Brad went by the bedroom around 11:30 and told her “you’re going to get to go wild-and-free forever soon.” A half hour later, we found her on her bed, on her side, eyes open with one ear furled under her as if she’d sprang to her feet planning to go wild-and-free and simply fell over dead.

That’s a great way to go for a fine athlete who loved to run and it even seems that she was smiling as she did it. And it being Independence Day — well, what a great day to enter the realm of “wild-and-free-forever.”

Image result for image of female yellow field labWe’re going to miss her, but we know she’s somewhere pleasant, maybe hanging out with our other dogs Cana and Friday or the cat Angel that she loved dearly but could never convince to be friends. It would be wonderful if the mini-lion would now lay down with the Labrador.

Where ever it is, I’m sure there’s water for her and Cana (a water Lab) to enjoy and for Friday (a husky) to complain about. And I’m sure she’s smiling because that is who Sunrise is and will always be.

Posted July 5, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Gratitude, Uncategorized

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Dealing with Death   Leave a comment

“How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.” Admiral James T. Kirk, Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan

We’re looking at Paul’s conclusion to his glorious passage on the resurrection. Consider these closing verses to be a climactic song of victory, similar to Brahm’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah. Actually the music analogy is a strong one, considering there are three movements or sections to this passage.

Celebrate the future transformation of your body 

Now this is what I am sayingbrothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of Godnor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. ListenI will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a momentin the blinking of an eyeat the last trumpetFor the trumpet will soundand the dead will be raised imperishableand we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishableand this mortal body must put on immortality.  (1Corinthians 15:50-53)

Image result for image of transformationWe are fans of Supernatural, so excuse the borrowing from this highly entertaining, if somewhat irreverent, show. Paul explained that a meat suit, a natural human body consisting of flesh and blood as we know it, is unsuitable for heaven. Hence, those believers still alive when Jesus returns at the Rapture will receive their new bodies by transformation rather than by resurrection. You and I can’t go to heaven just as we are today. No matter how healthy, strong, and beautiful we may be, we are unfit for heaven. You can’t have a decaying body in a permanent home. You have undoubtedly seen a restaurant sign in the front window that reads something like this: “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” This means that one’s appearance and attire has to meet certain standards, or he or she is not welcome. That is the way heaven is. Heaven is a place where there is no pain, sorrow, sickness, or death. These perishable bodies that we possess here on earth are not suited for heaven. The death and burial of our earthly bodies is not an unfortunate circumstance; it is a necessity. In order to go to heaven, we must receive “imperishable” or “ageless” bodies. They must be changed into a glorified state so that we can live in God’s presence before His perfection, holiness, and beauty.

The word translated “listen” in verse 51 is given more dramatic treatment in the King James Version. “Behold”  is like pulling a curtain aside to reveal a new truth. The modern vernacular doesn’t do it justice. In the Bible the term “mystery” refers to a truth not revealed until it was disclosed by the apostles.The Old Testament predicted the bodily resurrection and the Second Coming of the Messiah, so Paul was not referring to either of these events. This “mystery” is what is called the Rapture of the Church. The Rapture was newly revealed truth. There will be a generation of Christians who will inherit their glorified bodies without having to “sleep” or die. This is the great hope of the Christian. That all Christians will not die was a new revelation. Whether we as believers die and are resurrected, or whether we are caught up to meet the Lord without dying, we shall all be changed! The last chapter in life for the believer is not the cemetery, the casket, or the grave. No, the last chapter is transformation.

This transformation will not be a gradual process but instantaneous. The word translated “moment” is the Greek word atomos, from which we get our English word “atom.” The Greeks believed the atom was the smallest particle of nature, completely indivisible. The “twinkling of an eye” is at least as fast as a blink. It takes only a fraction of a second. Paul said this change will occur in an indivisible moment of time, as fast as an eye can twinkle, in an atomic second. It will not be an evolutionary process and it will not occur by gradual osmosis.

The reason that the Rapture will take place so quickly is given in 15:52b-53: “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable [eternal], and we will be changed.15For this perishable [temporal] must put on the imperishable [eternal], and this mortal[temporal] must put on immortality [eternal].”  I could get into a pre-Tribution versus post-Tribution debate here, but I’m going to skip that for today. Paul described our resurrected bodies as immortal and fit for the eternal state. In light of this reality, Paul called us to live in the present with the future in view. One great way of doing this is to expect Christ’s return in your lifetime, but plan as if it is centuries away. This allows us to be expectant for Christ’s return, yet also accomplish His will for us while we still have time.

Celebrate the future termination of sin

Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortalitythen the saying that is written will happen

Death has been swallowed up in victory.  

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting? 

The sting of death is sinand the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to Godwho gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1Corinthians 15:54-57)

The resurrection of dead believers and the transformation of living believers signal the death of death. Justice will be served. When Jesus died on Calvary’s cross, I’m sure Satan felt he had finally whipped his mortal enemy. All the opposition he had stirred up from the attempt of King Herod to kill Jesus as an infant, to the hatred of the Sadducees and Pharisees, to the kangaroo court He endured in Jerusalem culminated in Jesus’ execution on the cross. Satan had finally won! Truthfully, through the event of Christ’s crucifixion, Jesus purchased our salvation, redeeming us from sin and the Law. By His resurrection on the third day, He demonstrated His own power over death. He served notice to Satan of his eventual loss. When Jesus resurrects the dead and transforms the living, His victory will be complete. He will turn the tables on death by causing death itself to die.21

A boy and his father were out for a ride when a queen bee flew in the car window. The little boy, who was allergic to bee stings, was petrified. The father quickly reached out, grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand, and then released it. The boy grew frantic as it buzzed by him. Once again the father reached out his hand, but this time he pointed to his palm. There stuck in his skin was the stinger of the bee. “Do you see this?” he asked. “You don’t need to be afraid anymore. I’ve taken the sting for you.” In a similar way, we all suffer under the curse of sin like the little boy from the first sting and the next sting from death would mean our ultimate demise. But we have a Savior that came to our rescue and took the sting for us and we no longer have to fear death. Though death may buzz over us and land on us it can do no harm and one day death itself will die.

“When death stung Jesus Christ, it stung itself to death.” Peter Joshua, Leadership, Vol 7, no 4.

We must always remember that only on this side of the curtain is death our enemy. Just beyond the curtain the monster turns out to be our friend. The label “Death” is still on the bottle, but the contents are “Life Eternal.” Death is our friend because it reminds us that heaven is near. How near? As near as a heartbeat … an auto accident … a stray bullet … a plane crash. If our eyes could see the spirit world, we might find that we are already at its gates. Death is not the end of the road; it is only a bend in the road. The road winds only through the pass through which Christ Himself has gone. This Travel Agent does not expect us to discover the trail for ourselves. Often we say that Christ will meet us on the other side. That is true, of course, but misleading. Let us never forget that He walks with us on this side of the curtain and then guides us through the opening. We will meet Him there, because we have met Him here.

This reality ought to cause us to break out in thanksgiving, as Paul does in 15:57. AThe verb “gives” is in the present tense. Literally, God keeps on giving us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Every morning is Easter morning as we continually lay hold of the resources of Christ. We can go to Him for forgiveness when we fail. We can trust Him to meet our needs. He is available to us as our risen Lord. He is not a long-gone historical figure who died and then was purported to have been raised from the dead. We celebrate a risen, living, victorious Lord! 

Celebrate the future compensation of your work

So thendear brothers and sisters, be firmDo not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lordknowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1Corinthians 15:58)

Paul concluded his discussion of the resurrection with an exhortation to be faithful in the present. The word “therefore” wraps up this entire passage.30 The phrase “my beloved brethren” demonstrates Paul’s love for the Corinthians, despite the deficiencies in their theology and their behavior.This ought to compel us to love one another despite our theological differences. Paul was dealing with Christians that were waffling on their own bodily resurrection. This is a fairly significant doctrine, yet despite their erroneous theology Paul continued to love his people. Even when we are misled in our theology, if we have believed in Christ for salvation we will spend eternity together.

After affirming his readers, Paul launched into one command (“be steadfast, immovable”) with two participles (“abounding” and “knowing”) used as imperatives. This grammar leads to a simple three point conclusion: what we should be, what we should do, and what we should know.

What we should be. Paul commanded us to “be steadfast, immovable.” Like the Corinthians we are prone to be impatient, easily discouraged, and lazy. We let the circumstances of life blow us out of the water. We allow financial setbacks or job problems to depress us. Instead, we should be firmly rooted in what we know to be true about life and death because we have confidence in the resurrection. It gives solid footing. We won’t be swayed by every idea that comes along about this life and the afterlife. We can stand firm. We know who we are, why we’re here on earth, and where we’re headed in the future.

What we should do. Paul urged us to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” The verb “abounding” pictures something flowing over the edges on all sides. No one gets to the Olympics, much less walks away with a medal, who did not give himself or herself fully to their sport. The commitment of those athletes is phenomenal. They give up privileges, educational goals, relationships, sleep, favorite foods, anything, because of the goal that is before them of securing a place on the victor’s stand. So also no one will hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” if he does not give himself fully to the work of the Lord.

What we should know. Someone once said, “I’m learning more and more about less and less. Now I know everything about nothing.” Paul urged us to “know[ing] that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” The word “toil” used here means “working to the point of exhaustion.” Have you ever been worn out because of your work for the Lord? I’m afraid many Christians would have to say they have never been. And too many look forward to retirement as an opportunity to do even less, though in reality it’s a fantastic time to do more ministry than ever before. Reasonable rest is important and necessary, but if we err Paul said it should be on the side of doing more work for the Lord, not less.

Let me challenge you with this truth: you cannot grow spiritually unless you are serving the Lord and others. It is absolutely impossible. Yeah, you go to church and you read your Bible and you pray. That’s wonderful, but it doesn’t mean you are growing spiritually. Spiritual growth takes place when the Bible changes us and we begin to bless others. The Bible teaches that servanthood makes a man or woman more like Jesus. Additionally, the Bible promises us great eternal reward for serving Christ in this life.

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