Purpose, Hope, Vanity and Death

Disclaimer: I mean no disrespect to my grandmother in all of this. I am, after all, indebted to her for my own life, which has been quite good thus far, and for that I am deeply grateful. She was a great blessing and joy to me at times, and for that I am also grateful. There is much I can learn from her life, but not all of it is positive. That is why I am writing this post.

My grandmother passed away just more than a month ago–the day before Thanksgiving. Her health had been in sharp decline the past several years, so it did not come as a huge shock, but it was difficult nonetheless. It was not so much the loss of the relationship that devastated me as much as the harsh reality of death, of a life ceasing to exist in this world, and knowing that we all are destined to the same fate. I spent some time meditating on it, and as I looked through the Bible, I soon found my way to the book of Ecclesiastes. Chapter 7 in particular caught my attention. It opens as follows:

A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Better is the end of a thing than its beginning.

(Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, 8a ESV)

When the funeral was held a week later, I was thoroughly depressed. And I had every right to be, for one thing about the whole situation continually impressed itself on my mind–there was nothing in which to rejoice. Nothing about it merited one bit of goodness, happiness, joy or peace.

If that seems overly bleak, yes, I know that death is part of the course of life. From dust we came and to dust we shall return. As a Christian, I believe that for those who know God, death is even precious in His sight, but I had no clear indicators about my grandmother’s spiritual condition, and the prospect of divine justice left little room for hope.

Furthermore, on an even deeper level, I believe death is a horribly unnatural phenomena. It is the great unknown, the void that we must continually face but can never experience. The absurdity of it drove existentialists mad. The terror of it has driven many more to a similar desperate insanity.

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