“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf…” Hebrews 6:19-20
Yesterday, we lost another great cultural icon. Carrie Fisher, first known to many as Princess Leia from Star Wars (which I learned to fully appreciate earlier this year and chronicled in a blog post), died of complications from a heart attack at age 60. That’s how old my mom is. Yikes! I don’t want to think about my mom dying. I don’t want to think about anyone dying, and yet as another year passes away and we are inundated by lists of all those who passed away with it, I inevitably reflect on my own hopefully-far-into-the-future but also could- happen-tomorrow death.
I’ve never been very comfortable contemplating death. I tend to think about death the way I think about childbirth: something unpleasant which it’s best not to think about if I can help it. Childbirth, the way we all came into being, is an integral part of life. And yet it seems so scary, painful, mysterious, impossible having not gone through it myself. Luckily, childbirth is something most people live through, so I’ve heard a lot of people tell their labor stories. These first-hand accounts help alleviate some of the fear. Not so with death. I don’t personally know anyone who has been dead and came back to life to tell me about it.
As I was ruminating, I got an email update from one of my favorite authors/bloggers, Tara Mohr. Tara, currently pregnant with her second child, re-posted a beautiful blog entry about being pregnant with her first child. Like me, she had always been terrified of labor. She was still feeling fearful right up through the 40th week of her pregnancy. That last week of her pregnancy while she was attending a maternity yoga class, the instructor – who was also a skilled midwife – asked if it was her first pregnancy. When Tara replied yes, the instructor told her she couldn’t believe it because it seemed as if she had done it “a thousand times” before. Here’s Tara:
And then I had the graced and blessed thought, “Tara, you can act as if that’s true.”
Suddenly, then and there, I decided I had done labor a thousand times before.
The minute I thought that, I found a part of myself who had done it a thousand times before. It was like she raised her hand and said, “Here I am.”
I can’t tell you what part of me that was. Perhaps it was the part that is connected to every other woman on earth. Perhaps it’s a part of me that is older than my thirty-some years, a part that has, in other times, given birth.
Maybe I can think about death like that, too. Maybe when I start to tense up with fear when I think about my eventual death I can act as if I’ve experienced death a thousand times before. And haven’t I? At a cellular level, the smallest particles of my body are constantly dying and being renewed. I’ve experienced the death of relationships, the end of jobs, and the close of chapters in my life, and after each one a new thing is birthed into my life. And maybe I’m also connected somehow to every other person who has passed on before me. My granny, my grandpa, students whose lives were cut short, and Jesus, our “forerunner,” who experienced death and did live to tell about it. They are my "cloud of witnesses." We are connected, and I have experienced death before.
As 2016 passes away and the future looms ahead, unknowable, I take comfort in trusting that Jesus goes on before me. I will follow ever forward.
What about you? How do you think about death? Do you feel at peace or anxious about the future? Leave a comment below to share. Also, if you want to read Tara’s full blog post, you can check it out here. Thanks for reading!