I try not to think about death often. I think most of us try to avoid the subject as long as possible, as often as possible, for obvious reasons. Like I said, I certainly do. But the other day, I read this headline that said essentially, “[Name of Person], [Occupation of Person], Dies.” I suppose most newspaper headlines follow that general formula. That, or something like, “[Name of Person], [Occupation of Person], Dead at [Age of Person].” In popular parlance, though, our language usually isn’t that stark. Usually, when speaking of death, our parlance is rather blunted. We say things like, “So-and-So passed away,” or some variation of that. Oftentimes, that language is helpful. It might help apply salve to a fresh wound, where a reference to “death" might do the exact opposite. That said, I wonder if sometimes if sometimes our hesitance to use such blatant language about death keeps us from realizing death as what it really is: an invader.
Haruki Murakami, in his novel Norwegian Wood, writes about death in a way consonant with this popular parlance. Whenever the protagonist, Toru, speaks of death, he speaks of it as an “innate part of life.” For Toru, death is not something altogether separate from life, but rather every living person has a little bit of death in them. This is an important move, I think. Though everyone certainly will experience death, when we blur the line between life and the abrupt ending of it, we lose a knowledge of death as invader. The same thing happens when we speak of death in merely platitudes. We forget that death is something that’s not supposed to be here, we forget that this is not how it’s supposed to be, and we forget that one day it will no longer be like this.
Death, ultimately, does not have the final word. Christ, as the firstfruits of the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15), is the down payment on our own resurrection. When Christ is raised and ascends, He shows Himself to be the eternal King, the Conqueror of death and decay. Death is sad, and it always will be as long as Christ hasn’t returned. That said, it’s a pointer back to the first Tree from which Adam and Eve ate, introducing a foreign force into Creation, and a pointer back to the second Tree, upon which Christ paid the cost for the transgression involving the first Tree. Finally, we’ll see that Tree again in the New Heavens and the New Earth, as it heals the nations and brings life out of death. Death is sad, and terribly so. But death is not final.