Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Death Yet Life

Coming face-to-face with death, almost touching the pale grey lifeless body of a loved one, the Christian worldview is no longer a armchair doctrine to be dissected and debated and affirmed over tea and scones but something to bite down on and lean on and depend on, not as an empty psychological crutch but as the solid truth, which will hold up one’s weight.

Eyeball-to-eyeball with death, that cold unfeeling black hole of no return, the absolute and irreversible end of life on this earth, the joy and laughter in our irreparably terminated relationship will become faint echoes in my memory. Did he really exist? Did the Wilfred Owenian sun really wake him once? The kind old sun will stir him no longer. And his memory will pass away. His whole life, with its joy and pain, just vapour in the wind. Is it surprising that desperately, men have always sought for their memory to live on, in monstrous architecture, in plaques, in their family line? But all in vain. Buildings and tombstones and plaques are torn down and thrown out without scruple and bloodlines die out easily and without remorse.

Yet even at that thought, the soprano air from the third part of Handel's "Messiah" exults unbidden in my mind: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. For now is Christ risen from the dead, the first-fruits of them that sleep". Job 19:25-26 and 1 Corinthians 15:20. Beautiful words.

Will he return alive from that tsunami-devastated land? Or Rupert Brookianly, will there be a corner of a foreign field that will be forever Singapore? And while I squeezed his still warm shoulder, knowing that it would soon be cold and lifeless and then just dust, I was comforted that he trusts in God. And I too place my trust in the LORD who by raising Jesus from the dead, showed beyond doubt that he can and that he will redeem us from everlasting death and bring us to live with him for ever (2 Corinthians 4:14). For if we die in Christ we shall rise again in Christ. With such assurance, though I sorrow at the impending break in fellowship, I find it impossible to lose heart in the face of death.

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