Answer from the Other Side

death_morgan.jpg (81128 bytes)
Death - by Evelyn de Morgan

 

Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister, bodily Death from whom no living man can escape!

Saint Francis of Assisi

 

Answer from the Other Side

by Father Charles Dickson, Ph.D.

angelbar.gif (3645 bytes)

In the biography of Madame Curie, the writer describes the tragedy in which the scientist's husband, Pierre, is run over by an automobile. Madame Curie is clinging to his body, kissing the corpse, while screaming with grief. She would later write in her diary, these thoughts: "Your coffin was closed and I could see you no more. Everything is over. Pierre is sleeping his last sleep. It is the end of everything. Science does not have the answer; the answer must come from the other side."

The questions of life and death are as old as human existence. They have been expressed in many different modes and by countless people, but perhaps never more eloquently than by Job, when he asked, "if a man dies, shall he live again?"

resurrection_tiziano.jpg (12510 bytes)All the brilliant minds of the ages find abysmal defeat in the face of the irrationality of death. The mystery can only be unlocked and Job's haunting question answered, by the words of the Man of Galilee, Who taught His disciples by saying, "I am the Resurrection and the Life, he who believes in Me shall never die." Madame Curie was right - the answer must come from the other side. For Christians, the answer has come. The resurrection of Christ is God's eternal answer to our eternal question.

To be sure, the fear of death and the hope of life has always been a pervading question of every human culture. The very name, Easter is not found in Scripture, but was borrowed from ancient tribes of northern Europe who worshipped a god of the springtime. This god was supposed to be responsible for the coming of warn breezes, the thawing of the frozen ground, and the general resurgence of life. You might call it a kind of Resurrection; and the god's name "Eactor". The early Christians took over the term since it expressed exactly the event which they had witnessed. But it is far more than the resurgence of plant life from a frozen ground; it is the resurrection to eternal life from a hopeless grave. That will always be the eternal message of Easter. Christ has conquered death and, by God's grace, we too shall inherit life eternal.

There are some, even within the Christian community, who would argue that the reason Churches are crowded on Easter Sunday is due both to tradition, and the desire to show off new wardrobes. While that may explain attendance for a small percentage, I believe the real reasons for such dramatically increased attendance have little to do either with tradition or wardrobes. People continue to ask Job's question, "If a man dies, shall he live again?", and they continue to search for an answer.

Some of the world's greatest writers have expressed thoughts about death that are foreboding and filled with fear. Matthew Arnold called it a "prison" and Omar Khayyam called it a "door of darkness" while Shakespeare referred to it as "the undiscovered country from which no traveler ever returns."

Without a personal faith in God, Who promises us life through the Resurrection of His Son, such observations may indeed define death. But, we look for another answer. An answer that comes not from this side of life, so full of anxieties and fears, but an answer which comes from the other side - God's side.

Easter gives us perspective on both life and death. What do I mean by perspective? Take the example of the father who was reading a mystery story. He came to the end, wherein the mystery was about to be resolved, only to discover that his little daughter had torn the last three pages out of the book. How inadequate is a mystery if the last three pages are removed? How do you get a perspective on the whole story? How do you understand the total meaning of life without the Resurrection of Christ?

When Our Lord promised, "He who lives and believes in Me shall never die." He provided us with the long term perspective on life. It's much like the example of the deep-sea diver moving slowly, clumsily into the dim twilights of the depths. Relief from this means coming up into the fresh sunlight and the sight of familiar faces. So, we move through the depths that sometimes characterize the darkness of our existence; sometimes feeling submerged in a sunless despair. But, Easter tells us that the darkness will not prevail. There is light above darkness, a destiny beyond the dust, a life beyond the grave. We have an answer, it has come from the other side - God's side.

Above all shadows rides the Sun
- from Lord of the Rings

sunshine.gif (5039 bytes)

Easter not only provides us with an answer to facing our own death, but is also helps us to deal with the loss of loved ones. When her son's birthday arrived, she resolved to spend the entire day at the cemetery. On the way to the cemetery, she stopped at a florist shop to buy a wreath. As she entered the shop she noticed a gray-haired lady fussing with a dried-up looking plant. She asked the florist why she was fooling with that plant, since it was dead. The florist replied, "You're wrong, part of the plant has died, but there is still much that is healthy. I can't let the rest shrivel up." Those last words, "I can't let the rest shrivel up," suddenly struck home. "That's what I've been doing with my life. Part of me has died, but I should not let the rest shrivel up," she reasoned.

The Resurrection of Our Lord not only provides us with an answer to the ancient, question of Job, it also gives us the personal strength to carry on following the loss of loved ones.

When Peter Marshall was Chaplain of the United States Senate, he was asked to deliver an address to the United States Naval Academy graduating class. It was many in that class that knew they would be soon facing life-threatening situations. Peter Marshall used the appropriate story of a mother who was tending to her dying son who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had but little time left. One day, on the spur of the moment, the young boy looked at his mother and asked, "What's it like to die?" the mother got big tears in her eyes, but didn't want the boy to see, so she made an excuse about having to tend to a chore in the kitchen and ran quickly to that area. Then, she began to thing about what kind of an answer she would give him when she returned to his room. Then, the answer came to her. She had left his room to go the kitchen so the little boy wouldn't see her tears. Yet he knew she was in the same house, still near, but in another room. Yes, that was it! That's how she would explain death. She returned to his room, once she regained her composure, and began to explain how we do not see others in another room, but yet still know that person is there. Then, she ended her explanation to the lad, "Death is like going into another room, but they're all rooms in God's house."

Through the victorious Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we have the hope of entering another room, but still remain in God's house.

Death is not a prison, a door of darkness, not an undiscovered country; because of Easter, it is a grand partnership with the Lord of Life, Who removes fear from the death event and changes it into a smooth transition from one room in His house to another.

From Job's question, to the dying boy's question, to ours; all receive an answer. The answer comes from the other side.