This was posted by me on another blog on the anniversary of my dad’s death (December 6, 2010). I post it here to let our readers know what kind of emotions Meghan & I have been sorting through.
Providence is a mysterious thing. Today I picked up one of my favorite books, The Magician’s Nephew, by C.S. Lewis. It is one of my favorites for three reasons 1) it is well written fiction 2) it was the turning point in the Narnia series for me (it was when everything that Lewis had been doing through the first 5 books finally made sense – everything that was happening was happening because Aslan had made a promise to restore fallen Narnia) and 3) most significantly, it was the last birthday present I gave my dad (and to my knowledge it was the last book he ever read; I remember the voicemail that he left me letting me know that he had finished reading it). The birthday card I sent with it is still inside the book (I think he used it as a bookmark). It just so happens that I picked up this book without realizing that this weekend, 12/3-6/2010, a year ago my father Dennis Michael Johnson went into the hospital, Mobile Infirmary, to never come out again. He had suffered from cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis C for an extended period of time; on the day he went into the hospital (December 4, 2009) he was bleeding severely internally. After arriving at the hospital it became evident fairly quickly that the doctors would not be able to stop the bleeding, then his kidney’s failed (which meant his body was unable to process the medicine they were giving to him and his body was unable to process the waste that was in him) and as a result he slipped into a coma, he never came out of it. He died on December 6, 2009 at 8:42pm holding my mom’s hand with all four of his children (Margaret, Raymond, Lance, and Cortney) standing at his bedside.
Death is a real enemy, an enemy encroaching upon all our lives because of the curse of our sin (Gen 3) brought upon us by listening to the cursed one (Gen 3:14-15) long ago; death is an enemy reeking havoc by taking our loved ones and even our own lives by force – from the moment we’re born it begins its assault until it kills us. And, as my Oregonian friend has insightfully said, “Death is, in every single instance, a tragedy. Death reflects, in every single instance, our depraved reality. Even Jesus’ death reflects our sin-disease – not his own, but ours. And death is a tragedy worth crying over.” That is why we fear death. That is why we avoid death and aging at all costs. But, fortunately, our age-old enemy Death doesn’t have to have the final answer. In fact, the Scripture tells us that, ironically, the death of one man became the source of life for all who would believe in Him by faith and repentance. Jesus’ greater death on the Cross crushed the enemy Death; his death brought forth life (many were physically raised and walked out of tombs after his death on the Cross, see Matt 27:51-54) and his death continues to give life to all who will repent (Rom 10:8-13). Indeed, the greater life-giving death of Jesus Christ swallows up the curse of sin and Death (1Cor 15:54-55).
The anniversary of my father’s death is a reminder that Death is still on the prowl seeking to kill. We know this because the Scripture says that when Christ comes back there will be no more weeping, no more mayhem and no more dying (Rev 21:4). However, the celebration of Jesus’ birth this holiday season comes with a promise from a Triune God far greater than Lewis’s Aslan; and He reminds us that there was a life that conquered Death and Hades and Satan. In Christ (if we are in Christ) they have nothing on us; in Christ we have life forevermore for he is Jesus who saved us from our sins (Matt 1:21); in Christ we face Death with a smile, looking past him to eternal life with our Creator.