No one gets out of here alive…

Death and grief are things that I am familiar with. I’ve known them since I was just under 3 years old… as long as I can remember.

First it was my mom. I think it was some time in August of ’82. She was pregnant with my brother or sister. I don’t remember the funeral, but I’ve known the grief of that loss my whole life. It’s a grief for something I never remember having.

I think my Grandma Bernice (my mom’s mom) died in 1988 some time. I remember seeing her in her hospice bed. At that time, she was living in the house my┬ádad and mom used to rent from her. When the cancer got real bad, she moved into her house to die in some sort of comfort. A good friend of the family brought little brass figures for us kids. I still have my brass bear.

Great Grandma Mauddie was the coolest old lady ever. She loved the Denver Broncos, crosswords, and Jesus. I saw her for the last time about an hour before she passed. It was good to see her smile.

When I was in 9th grade, amid the hormones, long hair, and budding teen angst, a classmate died. They had been drinking, and he was goofing off on a truck. The truck went forward, he fell off and with a hit of the head he died.

In 11th grade, a friend (Mikey) let all the pressure of life in Utah get to him. He lit himself on fire in the mountains that weekend. We all drove around listing to “Brick” by Ben Folds Five for days, girls crying, David thinking about killing himself, and me in a haze.

My Papa (dad’s dad) died when I was 21 or so. He had survived a tipple bypass a few years back, but this time he never woke up after surgery. Grandma (his wife) had a stroke around ’05. She died 6 months later I think.

Death has been around the corner most of my life. He is a bastard and I fucking hate him.

Death is not just a part of the life cycle. Death is an abrupt, tragic end to something that should never stop. I know death isn’t how it’s suppose to end; it hurts too much to be anything but a damn curse.

This week, I’ve felt the weight of that curse again. My friend, teacher, and blogging hero Michael Spencer died on Monday. Cancer was the symptom; death was the sickness. And I am sick with grief.

Michael was a good man. He spent most of his life working in the poorest county in the U.S., seeking to teach and help kids find life. He was a prolific writer at Internet, writing about the problems of the evangelical church he loved so much and the Jesus shaped solution to it all. His words impacted me, helped shape my thinking about church, Jesus, and what part we play in it all. I never met the man face to face, be his interactions with me were always gracious and thoughtful. He even let me be a part of his virtual pub, The Boars Head Tavern. He was a sort of father figure to me. He helped me not give up on the people in churches. He helped me see Jesus.

Death got him, just like it’s gonna get all of us. None of us can get out of this messed up world alive. Even though it’s not how it’s suppose to be, we are all dying. Death comes for us all, and no one has a get outta the grave free card.

Are you sad yet?

Are you mad?

Are you confused?

Do you just want to ignore it till life can move on?

Ya, me too.

Death messes with my heart and my head. Even though I’ve dealt with it in so many ways for so long, I am still surprised by grief that wraps my throat and makes my heart heavy.

But… Death doesn’t win.

I believe that Life will swallow up death, everything will be made right, and all that is sad will become untrue.

(you hear that death… your gonna become fiction! Eat it!)

This is the good news, the gospel if you will. Jesus didn’t come and die so that you and I can be good little people who get to be some wussy angles strumming on a harp when we “pass on”. Jesus came, died, and got up from the grave again so that we could live on and on and on and on and on forever and ever amen.

(Where O death is thy sting…)

Michael believed this. His hope was in Jesus making all things right for those who hope in him. Now, Michael is seeing that hope more clearly than I am. I believe he is with Jesus now… and they are waiting. Waiting for the time when heaven and life breaks into this screwed up, sinful existence we call the world. When that happens, everything is gonna be right. We aren’t gonna become some ethereal spirits floating around some bright white clouds. Heaven and earth will be married and joined as one and everything will become more real than it ever has been before. Earth will finally not be some hell hole filled with wicked men and women, power struggles, war, and assholes. Earth is going to be home for God and for true humans to have true humanity and true, never ending life.

All that stuff that is good right now, things like good beer, good coffee, good books, good films, good music, good food… all of that is finally going to be what it’s trying to be now.

Michael loved baseball. The game was a sanctuary to him, the field was a chapel for him. In the new heaven and earth, Michael and I and all our friends are gonna go to a baseball game, drink beer, eat good “field food”, and watch a good game.

This is the hope I have. This is why I can grieve over the people I have lost in my life and yet rejoice, because I’m gonna see them again, the real them. And they are going to see the real me. And Jesus is gonna be at the good game with us, drinking beer, eating food, telling jokes, and finding joy in the rightness, the goodness, the LIFE he has given to us forever.