I really like Longfellow’s poem Nature. It doesn’t say enough about death; death is so much more than a “natural” thing, but what a thankless wretch I’d be if I didn’t thank God for this fine way of looking at one of death’s facets—especially in light of the resurrection of Jesus.
It’d be poisonous to demand of every speaker/writer or thinker that he/she should give a full Christian perspective on anything when they open their hearts. Do we ever do anything but tell part truths? I’m sure I remember someone saying, “We know in part…now we see in a glass darkly…”
Whether it’s life or death, God or ourselves there is so much more unknown to us than what we know and even what we know we don’t know very well. Don’t you think that’s so? In any case, the truly hungry won’t complain if in kindness they’ve been offered something substantial; they won’t peevishly complain it wasn’t all they would have wanted.
No, with grateful hearts they’ll please the giver by wolfing it down with a smile and then licking their lips and wishing for more. Longfellow gives me something substantial here and, once more, because of the Lord Jesus, the risen Lord and Savior who is Lord of Death and giver of eternal life; because in the coming New Creation that will be consummated in a rising to fullness of Life, LIFE that is missing nothing that we long for in our better, wisest and most hopeful moments–because of Him we don’t need to see the approach of Death with nothing but unrelieved sorrow or fear. How about this?
As a fond mother, when the day is o’er,
Leads by the hand the little child to bed,
And leaves his broken playthings on the floor,
Still gazing at them through the open door,
Not wholly reassured and comforted
By promises of others in their stead,
Which, though more splendid, may not please him more;
So Nature deals with us and takes away
Our playthings one by one, and by the hand
Leads us to rest so gently, that we go,
Scarce knowing if we wished to go or stay,
Being too full of sleep to understand
How far the unknown transcends what we know.
I’ve no wish to suggest that the sight and smell and sound of death is a pleasing experience for I take no pleasure in the thought of my own death though I have no particular fear of it. (When I once seriously thought of Ethel leaving I trembled.) Just the same, to have lived and by God’s grace to have had an honest shot at it; making no great waves, no name in lights, no footprints in celebrity cement, no household name—just an honest simple go at it—to have done that and then for “Nature” to take you by the hand to a well earned grave with God’s assurance of better things, that’s living and that’s a fine death. What more should we expect who are blessed with that?