Recently, I had the rare privilege of sitting bedside by the beloved father of one of our long time friends (so that this friend could enjoy a few minutes of reprieve over breakfast with my husband). We hadn’t even known if his dad would make it through the night, but he had, and I didn’t want to take any chance on his waking up without someone beside him. However, Jay slept soundly the entire time I was there, despite that old, familiar rattle in his throat that I remembered all too well, as it attended the loss of both of my parents some years earlier. My first reaction was to recoil from this sinister rattle, because I knew it was the trademark of our enemy, Death, stealing away the life of yet another loved one. “Death is just like a rattlesnake,” I lamented to my Father.
However, He gently reminded me that Jay was ready to be released from his outworn body, even though it was painful to watch him slipping away. I had to wrestle through the realization that part of our sense of loss in losing the parents of our friends is the recognition of how much our friends have become like their parents over the years. In giving up these treasured members of the older generation, we are also acknowledging and mourning that our friends will also pass away someday! We—too—shall pass.
I sat in silent vigil,
Watching and praying as he slept.
Like the snake Death is, it rattled in his throat with each breath.
He was at peace.
But, so was I, because I remembered:
Just as a serpent sheds its skin,
This elderly saint was simply shuffling off his outgrown foil.
He sprang free and slipped away to new life just a few hours later.
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (I Peter 1:22-25).