Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 2, 2019


When death claims someone we love


            Death has been on my mind in recent days. My friend Darlene Pearce died. An Auburn police officer, William Buechner, is killed. Bart Starr died. Rod and Paula Bramlett died. Claire Spencer, a friend for more than 80 years, died.

            Death gets your attention. Death is a wake-up call. It reminds you that you too will die one day. As we get older nagging questions invade our thoughts. What is the purpose of life? Why was I born? Why am I here? What really matters? Only those who truly grapple with such questions discover the true meaning of life.

            For some people life is “all about me.” Friends are few. Such people seem content with soup and soaps; the people they know best are television characters. Day after dragging day brings little joy as they wait for death’s knock on the door.

            There are others who are on the move, racing here and there, buying and selling, consuming and hoarding, planning and scheming and fighting to survive. They use people and love gadgets. They run over people while chasing the American dream. They want the best of everything available.

            But death wakes up all of us. Questions rattle our brains. Is this all there is? What am I missing? Why has my pile of stuff not brought me peace? Must I settle for being a plastic, superficial person? Since I call myself a Christian, why is there no sense of God in my life? What does life mean after all?

            One man said to me, “I feel like I am bogged down in the mud of life and all I am doing is spinning my wheels. I feel no connection to God. The whole idea of a ‘godly life’ seems like a fantasy to me.”

            Thinking like that can lead to a realignment of life, a new relationship to God. It can happen when someone begins to realize that authentic life is much more than toys and things. The joy of toys does not last. The human spirit cries for more. And there is more to life than stuff. Realizing that, we can reach out to God and things can change.

            We can learn to love people and use things. We can learn to laugh more than we whine. We can discover the joy of worshiping God rather than ourselves. We can learn to live fully each day, squeezing all the joy possible from every moment. We can find joy in simple things: the joyous smile of a child who delights in playing more with the box than the toy that came in it, eating oysters with a dear friend, the changing colors of a captivating sunset, a quiet moment sipping coffee on the front porch with the love of your life, or the tender, lingering embrace of a dear friend.

            Having been reminded that we too shall die soon, what shall we do? We can thank God he is willing to give us the strength we need for whatever hurdles we shall encounter on the remainder of our journey. We can embrace the truth that life here is actually preparation for the next life. We can forgive those who hurt us and move on without the baggage of resentment. We can laugh often, live fully and love deeply for no matter its length, life is truly short. Then, at the end, when death claims us, we may rest in peace rather than regret.

            My friend Lester Spencer said about his mother, my friend Claire, “She was at peace, ready to go to heaven!” I like that word “ready.” It reminds me that when the end comes, you can be ready to go – if you work at it! So, dear friends, while we have breath, let us do our best to be ready when the bell tolls for us. + + +