“Oh Death where is your sting?”
I will tell you where the sting is. It stings in the core of your heart when your loved one passes away. It stings every time you think you hear their voice or forget and look up with expectation to see them standing there. It stings when you see their picture or drive by where they worked. It stings on every birthday, anniversary and holiday. It stings when you hear that one song or their favorite dessert is served.
Wounds may heal over time, but the wound left from death never restores completely. It is that vacant spot in your heart that was intended to love that person and now it is empty and now that cavity is more of a puncture in the deep core of your being. And in the hollow of that puncture, there is a lingering sting.
One day a phone call comes and the news of someone else passing away. I grieve for my friends who lost their 21 year old son. My friend whose husband just passed away. Another friend whose mother passed on. My Aunt whose friend and companion and card playing partner who passed away. Most recently, a beloved teacher at my daughter’s school. I grieve for their loss.
Parents will long to hug their son, but he is not there. Sting. A wife will wish to share a moment with her husband, but he is not there. Sting. A daughter will have to adjust to no longer caring from her mother, because she is not there. Sting. A widow once blessed with a friend will want to call her card playing partner, but he is not there. Sting. A wife, three young children and a school that is more like a family will reach out their hand for their husband, dad, co-worker and coach, but he is not there. Sting.
Grieving their loss, tears drop, the wound reopens, pain resurfaces, one ache merges into other aches, and a heavy sigh is breathed. The sting of death is real. The loss of another connects to a sting from the past, the dam breaks, the tears rush forth and my soul is flooded with grief. I miss my friend all over again as if she had just passed away in the middle of all these other losses. It seems overwhelming.
Make no mistake. Death stings.
I remember this promise, and the sting begins to decrease. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you…” Isaiah 43:2
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:54-55. This promise is for the one dying. For the believer, when death takes the perishable body, it is not final. Through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, death has been conquered. Death has been swallowed up into victory because death does not have the final say. For believers death is a gateway to really living as they leave this world, pass on to the next, to Heaven.
Heaven where the battle of the mind is put to rest. Heaven where no one ages, grows weary and worn. Heaven where the word cancer does not exists. Heaven where the skateboard parks exceed the wildest imaginings. In death the sting for that individual has been extinguished. There is no more sting.
Yet, death does sting. It stings the one left behind. The sting is best felt, acknowledged, but not allowed to own us or control us. The sting is lessened every time we choose to live, to pick up the pieces and live. We honor those who have passed on with our living. The sting is still there, but we choose to live. Live this earth life despite the sting.
Then one day, after we have lived in the midst of the sting; we will join those who have passed on and can say – “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
But for now, death stings!