Death can be an overwhelming inevitability and the fear of it drives many of us to never give it any thought. However, tragedies such as Kobe’s stop us dead in our tracks and force us to give thought to the end.
This is why David is crying out to gain perspective in Psalm 39. He wanted to think upon the brevity of his life, so that he would live appropriately today. Knowing the end gives perspective on the present.
Memento Mori – Reflecting on One’s Mortality
Memento Mori – giving thought to mortality – was a common practice among ancient Stoics. Marcus Aurelius in Meditations stated, “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” It was his constant reminder to live true to his values.
Jonathan Edwards, the great preacher, philosopher, and theologian wrote about his mortality amongst his 70 resolutions that shaped his life. In two different resolutions, he wrote, “Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.” and “Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.”
In reflecting on our mortality we face the fear, embrace the present and live according to principles in which we aspire to live.
Death Doesn’t Get the Final Word
Despite the tragic nature of death and the shortness of life, I’m buoyed by the words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth:
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Christ, through his life, death and resurrection – death shall not have the final word. In the New Heaven and the New Earth, the scripture says that God will destroy death forever (Isa. 25:8) and that grief, crying and pain will no longer exist (Rev. 21:4).
I take great solace in the fact, that no matter how tragic or sudden our death may be, it shall never have the final word. That right belongs to God and God alone, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Life is short, eternity is long and death comes for us all. When it does, may we not be surprised by its presence because we had become well acquainted through reflection. May we all have loved God, loved people, and lived well. My prayer is that when death shows up on my front porch and knocks on the door, I greet him with a song on my lips. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”