By Sam Manchester
My grandfather died a few months ago.
I'm still coming to terms with what that means. He died. For some reason I can say that he died, but I don't feel comfortable saying "he's dead".
It was quite sudden, and although we got to spend time with him, in another sense we didn't get to say goodbye. My Grandad was a great man. He had decorated involvement in the Australian military showing leadership and skill.
But he was also just a great Grandad. He loved his kids; he was patient and generous with all his extended family. He gave hours of each day to praying for us and all sorts of other people he cared about. I guess you'll just have to take my word for it, he was a great man; you would have really liked him.
I remember feeling the terrifying inescapable nature of death. Grandad was dying and none of us could intervene. We couldn't go with him, we couldn't hold onto him – it felt like trying to grab at a beam of light. Utter helplessness. And at the same time, after seeing him 'go', it was like I turned around to realise that we are all 'trapped' in this life.
After we are born, it's as if we have entered a room and let the door close behind us. From that moment onwards there is only one way out, and it isn't back the way we came. The room is filling with water and the only way any of us will get out is where Grandad was now going.
There is no corner of the world that you can go to hide from death; there is no amount of money you can pay to bargain with it, there is no protective vest, no steel cage of security, no dark cave you can retreat to. Once we are here in this life there is only one way we are going to leave.
And on the one hand it is a fairly pedestrian fact that people have always died. But when Grandad died it felt like the first occurrence. It brought those facts right up to my face and filled me with a harrowing realism.
In the face of death, the truth about Jesus became all the more real and meaningful. Instead of an intellectual ideology, trusting in Jesus' victory over death became intensely real and practical; the only thing of any value. Beside Grandad's hospital bed, trusting Jesus' promise of a resurrection and confidence regarding God's final judgment was the only thing of any comfort.
During this tumultuous time, I was at the beach one day as the afternoon sun lowered in the sky. Looking towards the beach while standing in the water, I noticed how the light reflected on the waves in a beautiful haze. It made the whole scene a cinematic, golden, calm. As I went under the waves and came back up for air I thought about Grandad, going under 'waves' and coming up again. Passing through the water of some reality we have never seen and coming up on the other side to breathe deep of real life.
And as I looked back on the beach from the water I thought how one day we will be in a new creation that will feel as real as that moment did right then. One day I'll physically stand in some equivalent of the beautiful afternoon light, in the clear waters of the ocean, surrounded by happy families and friends.
I reflected that the fact of the matter is that Grandad had gone to be with his Saviour Jesus, who is preparing a new home for those who have trusted in Him. A city saturated in His presence, a land that will fill our lungs with the air of new life.
And if Grandad's life had communicated anything at all to me, it was that this hope in Jesus was true and real. Even in his death, Grandad was prompting me to remember to cling tightly to Jesus and to set my compass to that new country. As the Bible describes Moses, so too Grandad had "persevered as one who sees Him who is [for now] invisible".
And out in the cool water of the ocean, with heavy eyes from days of tears, and a new sense of death's horrible reach, I was comforted to remember it's this world that is the sunbeam, passing through our fingers, fading with the onset of evening, and making way for the new day. The final book of the Bible says that the present universe will one day be replaced by a new universe and new earth. And that even though he died, Grandad isn't dead, he's home.
The question is do you have the same hope? •