“…for what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14 “KJV”)
Black polyester. The fabric engulfs you. Like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night, the darkness of the cloth offers a strange sense of comfort.
Blurry. Through a mist of tears, you see it. Grass ripped away, an overturned pile of soil off to one side, and a gaping hole. Lungs tight, your heart feels squeezed. Your eyes focus on it. You want to turn away, for seeing makes it so real, so final, but you cannot.
Its surface is smooth. Lid tightly sealed, flowers adorn the cover; the casket is slowly disappearing from view.
A thud. Ropes pull upward, their ends dangle limply as they are suddenly freed from weight.
A clank. A tall, serious looking man in a business suit, is sinking a shovel into the pile of dirt. The sound reverberates through your heart as thick clumps of soil sprinkle the top of the casket. Soon the mound will form and the ceremony will come to an end.
You stand silent, struggling
to suppress the pain and loneliness swelling within you.
Years pass. The mound has lowered and green grass blankets the spot where it once lay. You’ve gotten good at hiding the pain, at concealing the tears, at convincing yourself that you have moved on.
The voice of your loved one now rings faint in your ears, but the memories have remained vivid and fresh. Despite age and time, you can still recall all the happy moments of shared experiences, not because your mind is still young and sharp, but because you have something to cling to, something to hold on to that keeps those memories alive: you have photos.
Wrinkled hands. Fingers arched with age, you gently turn the pages of your photo album. Ranging from black and white, to color, each photograph represents a moment in time, a moment- although paused in picture form-unlocks a scene that plays out in your mind. Smiling faces, laughter, and movement of life. You remember because you can see.
As humans, we are visual creatures. Our eyes represent the sense we utilize the most. Photos are a precious gift. A gift that can last well beyond the grave. A gift that can be handed down throughout the years. As each new generation receives it, the memories surrounding that image may change or vanish, but the image itself will remain the same. The photo serves as a permanent pause in time. Unalterable, its accuracy goes unchallenged.
Death is inevitable. One day, you too will lose someone you love. That day may be far off, or it may be soon. Don’t wait. Pick up a camera (or a cellphone these days), and capture life’s happy moments. “Pause” the people in your life that you love. Make memories that will last a lifetime. Preserve those memories so they last beyond the grave.
*In this blog, I have provided you with a scenario intended to motivate you to photograph your loved ones. It is not, however, my wish to portray death as something to dread or fear. Many of us do (both dread and fear dying), but that does not have to be the case.
I do not know your religious background, Dear Reader, but I am a Christian. There is often confusion concerning that title, so let me clarify: as a Christian, I have chosen to place my faith in the Person of Jesus Christ and in Him alone. I follow Him through obedience to His Word. As a Christian, I believe in a literal Heaven and a literal Hell. It is my conviction that we (each of us), will one day spend eternity in one of these two places.
God created you and He created me. He created the world in which we live (in six literal days and then rested on the seventh). Man first sinned hundreds of years ago when a husband and wife named Adam and Eve chose to disobey (sin against) God. Sin entered the world. Like a ripple effect, we all became “tainted” and imperfect due to its far reaching consequences. [Romans 3:10]. Our sin now separates us from God. Heaven and Hell being our only two options, we, as flawed humans find ourselves destined for Hell. [Romans 6:23]. Hell because Heaven is a perfect place, you see, and sin cannot abide in such a place. Therefore, as sinners, neither can we [Romans 3:23].
We all have a built-in desire to spend eternity in Heaven, but wishing for that to happen won’t make it come to pass. God’s Word, the Bible, tells me that neither will good works, church attendance, baptism, or anything else my human mind can come up with. It does, however, provide me with an answer to my problem: The only answer.
John 3:16-“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God loves us. He loves you. His love for you is so strong that He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to earth to pay our sin debt. [Romans 5:8]. The shedding of pure blood is the only payment that would enable us to enter Heaven’s gates [Hebrews 9:22]. Nothing we can do, in our flawed state, will release us from our sin debt (and our destiny in Hell). But, Someone Perfect could. Jesus Christ is the only Perfect One, therefore He is the only One who could pay our penalty. [Hebrews 4:15] Out of love for us, He did.
Jesus was born of the virgin Mary; He grew into a young man who later died on a cross. Through the shedding of His perfect blood (on the cross), Jesus made a way for you and for me to spend eternity with Him in Heaven [Romans 5:8].
Although Jesus’ body was laid in a tomb (for burial), He did not remain there. Three days after His death, Jesus rose from the dead. He is now in Heaven waiting for us. But, how can we join Him? Simply by believing.
Realize that God loves you, that you are a sinner who cannot save yourself; recognize the fact that Jesus Christ was born, he died, was buried, and rose again-for YOU. Place your faith in Him and in Him alone (not Him and yourself-You must choose just Him). And He will save you from eternity in Hell. If you believe in Him, He promises to take you to Heaven upon your death. [Romans 10:9-10] God is perfect. He cannot lie. So, we can cling to this promise.
With Heaven as our destiny, we need not fear death and dying. Death is merely a stepping stone from this life into the next. [Romans 10:13].
Knowing that our loved one is in Heaven is comforting, yet, as humans, we remain effected by their passing. Our hearts grieve. Tears are shed. And a longing stirs within us.
Photos serve as a gentle reminder. A reminder to hold on to the good and to look forward to the future (when we will be reunited with those we love in Heaven). Take photos. Take lots of photos. And remember.
One day, I hope to see you, Dear Reader, and those you love, in Heaven.
**For those of you who are not familiar with the Bible, both “John” and “Romans” are Books within the Bible. They are located in the New Testament which is in the last portion of the Book. The KJV version is believed to be the most well-preserved version of the original text, and therefor is the most accurate. If you would like me to provide you with a written out version of each verse (mentioned throughout the this blog), feel free to comment, and I will be happy to do that for you.