The school bus stopped in front of my mother's house six years ago today. It was strange because no children lived there nor had they in a long, long time. My sister and I turned to her as she lay in the hospital bed we had erected in her front room. Close to us she lay yet so very far away. She slept peacefully, beautifully, with her hair drawn up tightly in a ballerina's bun, her profile taut, belying her ninety-one years on earth. She lay silently. The soft moaning sounds she had made as she wrestled with death only a couple days prior had ceased.
"Mom! The bus is here!" we called in the cheeriest voices we could muster. "Hurry up! Don't make the driver wait!"
Much of my mother's life had been spent in school. The child of a teacher, her precocious entry into first grade when she was but five years old paved the way for her own career in education. She started with forty first graders when she was barely out of her teens and finished with two daily classes of thirty kindergarteners each. Fun loving and multi-talented, she taught kindergarten when it was still that - a garden for children. She led her charges in letter identification, name writing, and finger plays. She was their art teacher, their music teacher, and the supervisor of their play and rest times. Holidays were celebratory events, and bulletin boards were handmade delights whose creation, on occasion, she would entrust to me
And so, the bus stopping at her house that morning seemed only right. Little did my sister and I know how prophetic its visit would prove. Since then, I've reviewed that day and wondered at our lightheartedness. Were we trying to dispel the solemnity of the circumstance? Did we hope we could, with these words from days gone by, summon her back to our world? Would we have encouraged her departure, even jokingly, had we known she would leave us for good that very morning?
Death is a horrible thing. It marches into our lives with the cadence of a merciless army. It is a part of life, we are told, and yet when it becomes a part of our lives, it is all too apparent that something is terribly wrong. We cannot halt death. We each must face it. The bus stops for us all.
In Paul's Epistle to the Romans, we read that the result of sin is death. (6:23) In the garden, our first parents were clearly told as much but chose to believe a twisted version of that truth instead. Still, from time before time, our triune God, not hampered by the constraints of time, set a plan in motion to make all things right again. Yes, the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8 explains to us how God sent his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh in order to condemn sin in the flesh.
Did you get that?
Jesus put death to death.
And for those who trust Christ's finished work on their behalf (for on the cross he said, "It is finished!"), the spirit of Christ dwells in them and "he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (8:11)
So, I find myself, these six years later, considering life - its beauty and its brevity - and considering death - its fiendish finality. Though the mood is somber, I do not despair as those without hope, for my considerings gently lead me to this verse, and it is here that I find peace:
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39