“Death, Thou Shalt Die”

We’re preparing to go home for a funeral in a couple weeks, and I think that when we arrive, it will finally hit me that my grandma has died. I’ve been sad, but I think I’ll feel a whole new set of emotions when I arrive where she should have been and she’s not there.

In the last couple months, which have been, to put it baldly, a season of death for our family, I’ve clung to these words from John Donne:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
My Bible reading this morning reminded me that Donne is not here hopelessly grasping for solace in the face of an unfaceable reality. No, he is holding onto a trustworthy promise from God’s very word. “One short sleep past, we wake eternally // and death shall be no more; Death thou shalt die” indeed, not because we wish for it but rather because God has promised it. As John describes the scene in his revelation from Jesus Christ:
And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.
-Revelation 20:13-14

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