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Friday, July 18, 2014

Death and gladness

Tim Burton's 1989 reboot of Batman for the big screen received mixed reviews. But it had some impressive star power, notably highlighted by Jack Nicholson's maniacal portrayal of the Joker character.

From the film, Batman; Warner Brothers (1989)

In the scene above, Nicholson's character Jack Napier has begun his transformation into the Joker and is in the process of taking over Gotham City's crime syndicates. One of the bosses who stood up to him has come to a rather crispy end. In one of many memorable monologues from the film, Napier gleefully affirms, "I'm glad you're dead."

As recent readers on the Stream may recall, I returned from Haiti a couple of weeks ago. In my blog, Haiti Mission 2014 - Day 6, I mentioned that we had an opportunity to minister to an elderly lady named Sister Mary (Marie). Earlier this week we heard from our friends in Minoterie that Sister Mary had been taken to the hospital. There was concern that her illness was serious.

This morning, we received word that Sister Mary had passed away.

Sister Mary

Most people's first reaction has been to mourn the passing of this resolute woman, who lived a long life despite difficult circumstances. In recent months, she had been confined to bed and only rarely would be able to venture out of doors in her wheelchair.

Yet in the midst of our grief, should we not have some measure of gladness? Humans cling to life on Earth as if this temporal world is more desirable than anything else we could possibly experience. However, the Bible reminds us that:

...He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
 - Revelation 21:4 (NASB)

Sister Mary had friends and neighbors who cared for her, who would bathe her and feed her, fix her hair, and accompany her on those rare excursions when she could see the sky and the trees. When she could listen to the birds sing and feel the breath of God on the breeze.

So today, while we mourn Sister Mary's passing, we can't help but be at least a little glad. Glad that she is no longer suffering the effects of her illness. Glad that she is not dependent on others for even the most basic of needs. Glad that she, ahead of all of us, is standing in the presence of our Creator.

Another of my favorite films also features a tremendous line regarding the approach of eternity:

I followed you on many adventures -- but into the great Unknown Mystery, I go first, Indy...
 - David Yip (as Wu Han); Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Wu Han's demise at Club Obi Wan

In this short and potentially overlooked line of dialog from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the character Wu Han expresses some delight at beating Indy to the greatest mystery of all: What happens when we die?

"But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?'"
- 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (NASB)

So yes, today there is mourning and grief over the passing of Sister Mary. Yet there is gladness, too, as we have the surety that her dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

Rest in peace, dear sister.


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