I watched the coffee slowly decrease in this IKEA jar in our fridge. Husband is the coffee drinker in our home, and the grounds in this jar were a gift to us from Papa, Husband’s father, during his and Mama’s last visit. They were staying in a hotel in Geneva the weekend before Christmas, and they had stopped at some sort of speciality store and he bought the coffee for us. It was a special brand, one of those extravagant treats that we would not buy for ourselves, and while we thanked him for it and enjoyed the coffee – well, Husband enjoyed the coffee – we had no idea how special it would become.
It is not an exaggeration to say that death is on my mind daily since February when Papa died. I think about it when I kiss Husband goodbye before a business trip, it’s on my mind when I put Small One in his crib for naps and for the night, every Skype call with a member of my family ends with the fleeting thought of “What if this is the last time?” This is my first experience with death and its aftermath, and I am not a fan.
I never realized how much I spent most of my life focussing on the afterlife – I could not wait to get to heaven, be with Jesus and live in my mansion that was going to be equipped with a private beach (really) and I think I was also able to walk in the air and sit on clouds. I used to fantasize about this in my teenage years, and thought then that the idea of dying young was probably one of the best things that could ever happen to me. Even as I matured into adulthood, I still held death as the sad but glorious door through which we walk into a blissful eternity.
I still believe in an afterlife – heaven and hell – and I still believe that an eternity with Jesus in heaven will be more awesome than anyone can imagine, private beaches or not. But I had no idea how absolutely awful and final death on earth actually is.
There is nothing particularly beautiful about it, in fact my limited encounter with it this time around only shows me that death is totally opposite to everything that we long for as human beings. We want continuity of relationships, to grow deeper, walk closer, be more intimate. Relationships were not made to end. We want to keep making a difference, do something with our lives, be productive, effective, useful. Life exists for a purpose.
The coffee jar in the photo was for a me a tie to Papa, a small reminder of his life and a tiny way that it intersected our daily lives before he died. Husband drank the coffee and would remark about how great it was, and we were thankful for the gift. Now it is a link to a father who is gone, who will never buy us another bag of special coffee, and with each cup we drink from the grounds in this jar, we inch closer and closer to the day that it will be empty. The coffee will be finished, and this jar will not be refilled because Papa is dead and he is not coming back.
I think about these things as I cooked breakfasts and brunches, dinners and lunches this long weekend for Mama, Husband’s brother and our family, during Settler’s of Catan marathons, late nights and weary mornings, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I think about it as I sing in church and curl my hair and push Small One in the swing.
Jesus is alive, death has lost its victory and the grave has been denied, I sing to Small One on Easter Sunday morning, Jesus lives forever, he’s ali-i-i-ve, Hallelujah, Jesus is alive. And I believe it, with all my heart I believe it because what else do I have than the hope of this, that Jesus makes us what we were always made for, that he gives us a Relationship that never ends because he never ends, that he gives us life on earth and life after death because he is Life, that he gives my now purpose and meaning because he is the only reason to be alive, that he takes our innate weakness and makes us whole forever, for eternity.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”