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The Hope of the Resurrection and the Valley of Death

Written by Chris Daley This year, Easter had a renewed meaning for me. A few months ago, I was brought face-to-face with the reality of death. On Friday evening, Dec. 2nd, my mom called Ting-An and me to share heartbreaking news; my Grandpa was in the ICU at WakeMed in Raleigh, and she wasn’t sure if he was going to make it through the night. We dropped what we were doing and rushed to the hospital. We were in such shock; just a few hours ago Grandpa was walking around and talking to my parents. How could this have happened so suddenly? My mind flashed back to a few weeks ago; we had just celebrated his 92nd birthday where he had joked about how nice it would be to live to 96. My Grandpa was not in perfect health, but we had no reason to think our time with him would end in a few weeks.

Sitting in the waiting room, my mind played back memories of him from as early as I can remember, as well as stories I heard about him. When I was just an infant, while Grandpa was rocking me in a swing on my parent’s front porch one of the chain links on the swing failed, and Grandpa instinctively wrapped himself around me as he fell on the hard brick floor so that he would absorb the worst of the impact. Since before I can remember, Grandpa and Grandma were some of the people I trusted the most in my life; they were a shelter I could run to when life was hard and I needed a shoulder to cry on, and they were always the first people I wanted to tell when I had good news to share.

Grandpa was often one of the quietest people in a room, rarely offering his opinion. Maybe it was this character trait that drew so many people to him. He was an excellent listener and always made you feel heard and valued. This sounds silly now, but I remember going through my first breakup in college and pouring out my hurt feelings to Grandpa. He didn’t offer wise words or one-liners for comfort, he simply sat there and listened to me. I will never forget that moment; the memory continues to serve as a reminder to me that I should be slow to speak and quick to listen, especially when someone is sharing from a place of hurt or vulnerability. Most importantly, Grandpa was a follower of Christ and had been involved for decades in Bible Study Fellowship as well as their Methodist church in Raleigh where he had served the church in just about every volunteer opportunity they offered to the congregation. The love of Christ poured out through his intentionality in almost everything he did.

When the physician's assistant came by and shook me out of my contemplative state, she explained to us what they were trying to do to save Grandpa’s life and the various medical tools they were utilizing to do so. Suddenly, she was whisked away by a nurse, only to return seconds later and say gently but firmly; “This might be it. Quickly, follow me.” Our eyes welled with tears as we rushed through the ICU doors. And there was Grandpa, unconscious and barely clinging to life while a machine helped him breathe. The doctor told us his heart was failing due to an infection that had quietly spread through his lungs and placed such a burden on his chest cavity that his heart was too weak to pump on its own strength. There was nothing more they could do.

Mom, Dad, Grandma, Ting-An, and I hugged each other and cried like we never had before. After we had collected ourselves, we each had a moment with Grandpa alone. Through tears, I praised God for his life and his faith, and I whispered in his ear how thankful I was to have known him, loved him, and been loved by him for 30 years. I have no idea if he could hear me, or if his soul had already left his body and was with the Lord, but I will treasure that moment for the rest of my life.

Why do I share all of this? Because death is painfully terrifying, and despite the fact that we all will die, it feels so unnatural. God never intended for death to be part of our reality. Yet, as we celebrated Easter a couple of months ago I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 15:54-57:

“Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’... But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I’ll be honest, my grandpa’s death did sting, and I still find myself in tears sometimes, longing to be able to pick up the phone and hear his steady and reassuring voice on the other end. But I know this is not the end; the stinging pain of death is temporary. Praise God that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, Grandpa has a new body and right now at this very moment has the privilege of seeing Christ in all of His glory in the throne room of heaven.

Regardless of how or when we die, if we abide in Christ and trust in Him, we can know our story is not over; in fact, the most exciting chapter of our life is just about to be written. In closing, allow me to share the opening lines of my grandpa’s favorite hymn, Blessed Assurance. I pray as you read it, that you let the reality of these words wash over you if you:

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God

Born of his Spirit, washed in His blood”

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