The struggle with life and death



We received word early on the morning of Feb. 16 that my 86-year-old father-in-law was on his way from his home to the hospital via ambulance. On the evening of Feb. 18, he passed away. His passing was rather sudden and brought with it all the emotions of losing a loved one. While death in general should not surprise us, it certainly is not a subject most of us like to discuss.

For me, his death has brought to the forefront the fact that our time on this earth is so minuscule in comparison to our life after death. We have a very short amount of time to get our act together. Our life will ultimately end with eternal life in heaven or eternal damnation. The gift of eternal salvation was won for us by Jesus’ death on the cross. No one can take that gift away from us. What can happen, though, is that we can become complacent; use our free will to reject the promises made at our baptism; and, in essence, reject this beautiful gift.

When I think about this in the grand scheme of life, every breath I take, every move I make and every thought I have while on this earth has implications on where I end up when my life on this earth ends. These thoughts have led me to the desire to take some quiet time during Lent to ask myself some questions and discern how I might spend my time each day. First and foremost, am I fulfilling my baptismal promises? Do I really believe that Jesus conquered sin and death, and if so, does that affect the way I live?  When my life on this earth ends, will my life continue in heaven with Jesus? Does anything else really matter?

I will be the first to admit that I struggle with all of this at times. If I peer through human eyes, what I see is that I do not want to lose loved ones; and I do not like to think about dying and leaving my loved ones behind. But if I dig deep enough and look through the eyes of faith, I can begin to see the light of eternity illuminating my life here on earth. I get a glimpse of eternity by encountering Jesus and his love through prayers, the sacraments and my interactions with others. These things give me hope as I get a small taste of the risen life to come while I am still here on earth.

As we all continue our Lenten journeys, I invite us to take some quiet time to contemplate death and, in particular, the life that comes before death. It is our life before death that will determine if our death leads to the gift of life in heaven filled with joy and endless light, or if it leads to eternal damnation. The good news is that Jesus loves each one of us; and if we open our hearts to his love and mercy and strive to show and share that love and mercy, he will guide every breath we take, every move we make and every thought we have, ultimately leading us to everlasting life in heaven.

Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Dubois County and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message.