Where, Oh death

September 2, 2019


"Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 1 Corinthians 15:55 NIV.

Through my years of being a Christian, I had heard this verse multiple times in sermons, at funerals and in Bible Study. I have to admit that while it had meaning to me when hearing it, this verse never rang truer than during the events of the last few months and weeks.


"Where, O death is your sting?"


My grandmother died on August 8, 2019. She was 94 years old. Our family knew this was coming sooner than later.  Back in March, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer of the liver and spleen.  When you are 94, there isn't much curative treatment that can be done to beat cancer. My grandmother decided to take the route of Hospice care; and it began, for her, a slow journey to her death. My family was alerted and like most families, we made the effort to make Grandma a greater part of our lives.  Nothing like a deadline. 


I began calling her more often and visiting her as well. We'd talk about many different things and even the impending date this year. She really summed it up at the end of one conversation as, "it is what it is."   She wasn't angry and accepted this as part of her life. This statement started off, what I now realize to be, her showing my family what death means to a believer. She lived 1 Corinthians 15:55.


"Where, O death is your sting?"


In one of our conversations, we found ourselves discussing heaven.   She was excited about getting to heaven. She couldn't wait to be reunited with my grandfather.  My grandfather had died 17 years ago and she missed him. She and Grandpa would do everything together. They enjoyed traveling, working at their church and dancing at weddings, especially their grandkids' weddings. She was excited to see my aunt. My aunt passed a few years ago and my grandmother missed her daughter. Lastly, she was excited to hold her baby. My grandmother lost my uncle three days after he was born. She recalled that when he was born, the doctors and medical staff had whisked him away without giving her a chance to hold him. She admitted to me the first thing she was going to do in heaven was hold her baby. 


"Where, O death is your sting?"


I learned from her pastor that she never stopped going to and serving the church. When she got her cancer diagnosis, she went to her pastor to discuss what was ahead.   During that discussion, she promised to work and attend church until she couldn't physically do it anymore. We learned that she worked counting the offering within months of her death. The last service she attended was two weeks before she died.


"Where, O death is your sting?"


Tracy and I took the boys to visit her as much as we could. During the last visit, the boys had brought a dice game called Left, Right, Center, Wild. We had a blast. We revisited my youth, the hours our family spent playing Uno or cards, which where a part of any holiday celebration. My grandmother would continually laugh during those holiday games. My boys got to experience that laughter that day by teaching her that game. She would especially laugh when she would knock me out of the game and witness the boys' joy in watching her do that. Later on, she asked the name of the game and where she could get it. She was making plans to have the game at her apartment so she could teach others to play.


"Where, O death is your sting?"


My father called me on the 7th of August. He informed us that Grandma's condition was getting worse and she was not long for this world. I left work early to say my last goodbyes. For most of my visit, she slept. However, for a couple of hours, she showed my family how to live. Her last meal was peppermint ice cream. (Her favorite ice cream). When her best friend showed up, she lit up and began talking, joking and laughing. My grandmother laughed in the face of death.


"Where, O death is your sting?"


Now, my grandmother would caution us not to make her a super hero. She was insistent upon my grandfather's death that we shouldn't make him out to be more of a man than he was. I know she would say the same thing today. While it may seem that I am making her out to be a hero, I am not. What she showed me is what it is like being a Christian. Her actions throughout this year were the actions of someone who knew that death doesn't get the last word. She knew that through Christ, we are promised everlasting life. Through Christ, we will be united with our loved ones. Through Christ, we are promised grace, love and forgiveness. While I am sure, like all of us, she had her low points, she also rested and believed in the promises of Christ. Those promises are not exclusive to her, they are for all believers. We have the assurance that death does not get the final word.   We, too, can laugh in the face of death.


"Where, O death is your sting?"


God bless,


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