My uncle died on Saturday. I won't tell you it didn't hurt. It did. It does. And yet, we saw it coming. His mind and memory had long been lost to this world already and his body was just the last to go.
It's a different feeling than the one when someone dies at a young age.
The grief that follows the death of someone young comes more from the loss of expectation. The expectation of what everyone thought was yet to come. A lifetime of goodness and relationship. A continued and varied journey to grow and become whatever it was they were supposed to become.
While this loss is disappointing and full of sadness, it's also full of celebration and understanding. My uncle had a spectacular journey. He was fully human with struggles and faults, but he ran the race and looked to Jesus for help. Now, the knowledge that he has been freed from his mortal and life-worn body brings relief and joy.
In this event, I imagine the cheers of angels. Angels in a packed house party that's already begun and the guest of honor just swung the door open. I hear echoes from C.S. Lewis's "The Last Battle".
“Come further in!” Aslan cries, with laughter in his eyes. “Come further up!”
The characters in the book are finally realizing that they have died and are being welcomed into heaven. Aslan, a picture of Jesus, is helping them understand the difference between their earthly existence and their new heavenly one.
Father Time was only dreaming through the centuries of history. What we call time was only dream-time. The life we know before death is a dream-life in a shadow-land. It is not fully real because it is not fully awake.
The ending... or is it the beginning?
“The dream is ended,” says Aslan. “This is the morning.”
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
I have hope. A hope in the God that created everything I see and everything I don't. Maker of heaven and earth.
Engaging my imagination to envision C.S. Lewis's description of heaven honestly makes me cry. It's incredibly beautiful. The best part though? His imagination was created by God, the creator of all things. How much bigger and more magnificent must be the real thing? How much greater is heaven than anything our minds can conceive?
My uncle knows.
And someday, so will I.