Disclaimer: This post is a little more serious than most that appear here on The Bronzed Shoe Archives. It has graphic moments. Look for a return to our regularly scheduled frivolity tomorrow.
At the chilly, dark hour of 3 AM, we made our way towards the Austin airport. This weekend my mother’s side of the family converged on Texas to celebrate my cousin’s wedding, but our 36-hour reunion was over and my mother and I needed to catch early flights back home. My uncle calmly piloted the large truck, awake despite the early hour. He and my aunt and cousin had a long drive back to Alabama in front of them. We chatted and joked, making the most of our last bit of time together.
We were almost to the airport when we noticed blue flashing lights at the side of the road. There was only one squad car, so my uncle easily moved around it, assuming someone had been pulled over for speeding. But the car ahead of the police unit was warped and dark. My eyes followed a dark red trail from the front of the car. Twelve feet ahead, a man lay sprawled on the ground, his body a heap of impossible angles. The truck’s headlights lit up his vacant eyes as we swerved to avoid the scene of the wreck.
Just as quickly as the gruesome sight had come into view, it vanished behind us in the dark. The truck cab overflowed with exclamations of shock. My mother reacted by seeking to comfort me, and my first thought was to reassure her that there was nothing her medical skill could have done for the dead man. The hubbub faded away and we pulled up to the airport. Goodbyes were lovingly exchanged, but we spoke with quite less joy than before.
All day, I have been turning the scene over in my mind. The memory of the dead man’s face confronts me at idle moments.
While waiting for my plane to board, I thought about my immediate emotional response to the crash. My honest reaction was embarrassment. I felt like I had trespassed on an event that was not for me to see. I thought about what would happen to the body next. It would be autopsied to determine the cause of the accident. Then a family member would have to come to the morgue to identify the broken body. All of this is abnormal- it’s not how death is supposed to take place. Someone’s passing should be expected, prepared for, and witnessed by loved ones. Above all, it should be private. This morning, I unintentionally violated something sacred.
As the day went on, I thought about the significance of the death’s timing. All Saints’ Day, November 1, had technically begun, but dawn was hours away. The death took place in the time when we knew that All Saints’ Day was coming, but its arrival was not yet in evidence. Is this not the point in time Christianity has occupied since the Resurrection? We know that the Kingdom of God is at hand, but we can’t see it yet. The day when all saints will rise and sing God’s praises is coming, but for now we still wait in darkness. We can’t see the dawn, but we know it is soon approaching, and our faith keeps the pressing darkness at bay.
We know that death is not the end.
I was conflicted about whether to share my thoughts about this in so public a place, but it occurs to me that all I can do for the victim of the crash is to bear witness, both to the tragedy of his death and to the hope and promise of eternal life. We have heard the Good News, and it has set us free.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”