Accepting our mortality

John at Cromarty

This morning’s service was about Jesus as ‘the resurrection and the life’ (John 11:25)  Some of us, Duncan said, would not have had much experience of people close to us dying; others, because of age, would be much more familiar with this unwelcome visitor.

But Duncan encouraged us to gently reflect on our own mortality – we would, he said, find it helpful. I think he’s right – it’s often the case than when someone receives a terminal diagnosis, life becomes much more precious to them than it was before; they speak of seeing familiar things in a new way, and of appreciating their preciousness.

Even as little as ten years ago, I found it hard to accept that one day I will die – it was something I pushed to the back of my mind. It was thought-provoking to speak to someone at work who was an atheist who was completely at home with the thought of his own death.

Since then, I have been blessed with a sense of my own mortality. I think particularly it was having a TIA (mini-stroke) some years ago, and finding myself weak and uncertain, and yet supported and upheld by the love of God which helped me see that yes, I would die, but I could entrust myself in dying to the Great Love.

Accepting our mortality is neither to take a sentimental view of death, nor to deny that growing old and dying bring the most demanding of challenges most of us will ever face.

But for me, accepting my mortality means that, on my clearer-seeing days, I can rejoice in life, receive each day, each minute, as a gift; I feel abundantly grateful for ordinary things; I recognise the foolishness in chasing after things which have no ultimate significance. It deepens my love for family and friends, and people I meet, and people in need. Accepting my mortality helps me truly be myself – why pretend to be what I am not, when I have only a certain number of days to live as I truly am, God’s precious child. Of course, there are less clear-seeing days, when I forget the preciousness of ordinary things.

For me, key to this freedom is the recognition (again on the clearer-seeing days, free from shadow and doubt) that I am held by the Great Love, from which nothing can separate me. I am forgiven; I am cherished. I am aware of a little of the life of Jesus in me – the littleness due to my flawed sense of perception rather than to the generosity of his giving. I sense that I was accompanied by Love as I struggled to match other people’s expectations, and that it was Love which helped me discover the loveliness of the self I had been all along.

Life is full of little deaths, as moment by moment we say ‘no’ to darkness, and ‘yes’ to life, and in fact coming to faith (whether as a process or in a crisis) itself involves death and resurrection, as we say ‘no’ to our self-focussed, God-distant, false selves, and say ‘Yes!’ to the Father.

And these glimpses of the life of Jesus we detect within us – these are evidence that already we are sustained and nurtured by the life which will never leave us, even though our bodies return to dust.

Duncan is so right – accepting that we will die is the way to fully enter into life.

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