Ok, let me start with an apology to those of you who regularly read my blog posts. I realize that last week’s post was about death. Well, this week’s post is too. If I keep this up I better change the title of my blog from Life at the Altar to Life at the Morgue. But I determined to write these posts out of what is in my heart as I interact with Christ and the world around me. And, if you read last week’s post, you know that these last few weeks I’ve been up to my neck in dying and death.
It came home to me yet again over the weekend when I read that Earl Weaver died. He was 82, so I guess it was time. He died on a baseball cruise—a pretty good way to go. But he died. And it struck me because Earl was one of my childhood heroes, managing my Baltimore Orioles to four pennants and one World Series championship. He was a crusty old codger even then. Nobody kicked dirt on umpires better than Earl Weaver. Only two managers got ejected by umpires more than Earl Weaver, who was tossed 97 times—that’s more than half-a-season worth of games. It’s no wonder Earl once said, “On my tombstone write, ‘The sorest loser that ever lived.’” What a winner! And what a character!
Earl’s death reminded me of how many of my childhood heroes are dead. Of course, I’m 56 so there you go—it’s been long time since I was a child. But so many of my sports and entertainment heroes are gone—John Wayne, Jim Croce, Mickey Mantle, Dean Martin, Don Meredith, and so many others—gone. Thankfully they live in my memory and they live on CD and DVD, so it’s almost like they’re still around even though they’re not.
But Earl’s death reminded me once again of death’s reality. Sooner or later Death is coming for us all. Sooner or later, there will be a knock on the door and Death will be on the other side. No matter how many locks you put on that door, no matter how hard you and your loved ones push against that door, Death will find a way in. And if we want to learn how to really live, we need to come to grips with that. James Jones, in his autobiographical history of World War II, wrote that the best soldiers he knew were those who assumed they were dead already. He said they were the bravest and boldest of them all. They were the ones who would charge the machine gun nest, the ones who would jump on a grenade to save their friends. Some of them came back alive. And some of them came back in a box. But could they ever soldier!
As a follower of Jesus, I like to think I’ve made peace with my death. I trust Him with my life and my death. Jesus holds the keys to death and the grave. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. When Death comes for me, Death can take me but he can’t have me because Jesus is preparing a place for me with Him in the Father’s house. I like to think I’m at peace with my death. And I think that helps me to live more boldly, enjoy life more thankfully, and not be consumed with fear about the when and the what of death. Even though I won't make it out of here alive, I hope it could be said of me post-mortem, "Boy, did he ever live!"
Have you made peace with your death? Too many ignore death and pretend that they are going to live forever. Someone once asked old man Groucho Marx, “Groucho, what do you hope people will be saying about you in a hundred years?” Groucho responded, “I hope they say, ‘He sure looks good for his age.’” Some want to pretend it will never happen to them. But pretending won’t make it so.
One of my all-time favorite preachers, Peter Marshall (also long since dead) tells of an old legend about a merchant in Baghdad who one day sent his servant to the market. Before long the servant came back, ghost white and trembling all the way down to his toes. He said to his master: "Down in the market I was jostled by a woman in the crowd, and when I turned around I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Master, please lend me your horse, for I must hurry away to avoid her. I will ride to Samarra and hide there. Death will not find me in Samarra."
The merchant lent him his horse and the servant galloped away at break-neck speed. Later, the merchant went down to the market and saw Death standing in the crowd. He went over to her and asked, "Why did you frighten my servant this morning? Why did you make such a threatening gesture?"
"That was not a threatening gesture," said Death. "It was a jolt of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."
That appointment’s on your calendar too. Be ready.