The Last Thing I Expected Over Easter Was This

I could tell something was wrong.

My elderly neighbour was on his front doorstep, waving at me, saying something.

And so I waved back.

But instead of acknowledging me and moving on, he kept looking at me. I assumed he was asking for something, so I went over. As I got to his house, I noticed things weren’t quite right: instead of welcoming me, he kept staring off into the distance.

And he was repeating something, ever so quietly:

‘Help’. ‘Help’. ‘Help’.

Photo courtesy canva.com

I had no idea what was happening.

But from then on, I knew things weren’t right. So I went up to him, and asked if he needed help.

At the sound of my voice, he jerked his head in my direction, as if I had surprised him. It was like he was blind – looking this way and that – trying to figure out who was speaking.

‘Do you want me to call the ambulance?’ I asked.

And that’s when I realised he couldn’t speak –  his speech was confused.

Ok, wait here, I’ll call the ambulance’, I said. (I had spoken to this elderly neighbour before, and  he had always been ‘with it’ – this was very unusual behaviour.)

I called 000 (first time ever), and the ambulance was on its way.

Meanwhile, I raced back to my neighbour, to stay with him until the ambulance arrived.

By now he was sitting down on the top step of his house entrance. He had come back to himself (or so it seemed). He was trying to talk, pointing at his shaking arms, pointing to his mouth, shaking his head. But he still couldn’t speak properly.

He was clearly distressed.

(Now I’ve got to be honest, I was a little confronted by it all: seeing a fellow human being so unwell, and not being able to help. I felt distressed.)

Thankfully, the ambulance soon turned up. And the ambulance officers were certain my elderly neighbour had suffered a stroke.

So they took him off to hospital. (He’s yet to return.)

And all this took place in the midst of my mini ‘mid-life crisis’.

My Mid-Life Realisation:

I really am going to die.

I turned 40 in January.

I know that many blokes start asking the hard questions at this age: what have I achieved in life? Is my life a success? Many (so I’m told) turn to the motorbike or the mistress in response.

But I’ve had a somewhat different – and for me unexpected – reaction.

You see, since just before turning 40, I’ve become aware – deeply, emotionally aware – that one day,  I’m going to die.

I’ve become deeply aware that my life has a ‘use-by’ date – that there’s a ‘full-stop’ at the end of my days.

Oh sure, I always knew in my head that I would die one day.

But it never really affected me.

But now that I’ve hit the big 40, I feel overwhelmed – overwhelmed by my mortality.

And to make matters worse, seeing as the first 40 years of my life have flown by (where did all that time go?), it won’t be long before I’ll be an elderly man, possibly waving to my neighbour for assistance.

And there’s nothing – nothing! – I can do to stop it.

(Morbid, I know.)

And what does our Aussie culture have to offer by way of help?

Not much.

Why the Modern Aussie ‘Solution’ to Death is Hope-less

It’s got nothing to say apart from ‘enjoy life now’.  

I was recently talking to a non-Christian friend about my mini mid-life crisis, and my newfound awareness of mortality. Their response was understandable, and fairly typical:

Well, they said, let’s enjoy life while we’ve still got it.

Now I get it. I understand where they’re coming from. There are so many things to enjoy – especially in our beautiful country.

But ‘enjoying life while we’ve still got it’ – it’s so hope-less.  It’s hope-less in the face of aging and death.

I mean, what hope can our culture’s view of death give my sick neighbour? What hope can it give to the elderly patient at the local dementia ward?

What hope can it give to a 40 year old schmuck like me who realises that death – his own death –  is inevitable?

No hope whatsoever.

As far as I’m concerned, this view of death is a denial of reality. It’s basically a rehash of the ancient Greco-Roman saying:

Let’s eat, drink, and be merry – for tomorrow we die.

Now, before you click away from my morbid post, let me say there is light at the end of this dark mid-life tunnel.

As I write this, it’s Easter Monday. You’re probably warding off type-2 diabetes from overdosing on chocolate, or nursing a sunburnt body. Hopefully your Easter was pleasant, and didn’t include a 000 call.

And although my Easter did contain distress (especially for my poor neighbour!), it’s nothing compared to that first Easter. An Easter that was distressing: but an Easter that gave real hope.

God’s Distressing Easter Event

The day that shook the world.

2000 years ago in Jerusalem, the sun went dark for 3 hours. The city was torn by an earthquake. The sacred Temple curtain was mysteriously torn in two.

And the only innocent man ever to walk to the earth – God’s own Son –  hung on a brutal Roman cross, crying:

Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sabachthani?

(‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’)

Words can’t describe the horror.

But thankfully, it didn’t end there.

The Easter Event That Ended Death

I don’t know what will happen to my neighbour after his stroke. (We’ve been praying for him, and for his recovery.)

But I do know what happened to Jesus after His crucifixion:

Resurrection. Life from the dead. Life eternal.

Raised to unending glory.

And that’s the life he gives – the life He promises! – to anyone who would bow the knee to Him as King:

I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.

Just as I feel overwhelmed by my inevitable death, I feel supreme comfort from Jesus’ words.

I want to cry tears of joy as I read them: it’s like being given an antidote to a terminal illness. Wait, it is being given an antidote to the most awful terminal illness ever – death itself!

Thanks to Jesus – and to his Easter rescue mission –  my death is not a fullstop. It’s a small comma – a mere speedbump – on the way to resurrection life.

What an answer to my mini mid-life crisis. What a hope for everyone who faces death! 

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19 thoughts on “The Last Thing I Expected Over Easter Was This

  1. As one of those only a few steps behind you on life’s journey, I’d just like to say thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. My dad just died 2 weeks ago,so I can feel what you wrote. And my hope too,one day I will meet him,my mum,may grandparents too.Yes hope is very important.15 years ago,(I was 50) I had a stroke,15 years later heart attack,and then another heart attack,I am recovering now,so yes, hope is very important.

  3. Thanks for sharing that story, so glad you were there for your neighbour, you may have saved his life.
    Anyway, be of good cheer, life begins at 40! (If the Lord tarries).
    At 40 I fulfilled a boyhood dream of learning to scuba dive. I did over 250 dives over the following 10 years with my wife. At 50 I took up Scottish Country Dancing, we still do that every week. At 60 my wife and I took up bicycle touring. After a year we were fit enough to cycle 600kms around England and France. We still enjoy 3-400km rides with our tent and camping gear.
    I sound like I’m boasting, but it is often said that the 40-70’s can be the most productive years. I believe the key is Gods Grace and keeping healthy through natural diet and lifestyle, plus fitness.

    • Hi Gray,

      Yes, I’m glad I was able to be there for my neighbour, too. The street was empty, and it was getting toward dinner, so nobody was around.

      Thanks for your encouragement and example about living a useful life post 40! What an example of people who didn’t just let the aging process overtake them. Great to hear. 🙂

      God bless,

      Akos

  4. Without wanting to detract from the thrust of your theological message (with which I agree totally), I have a practical suggestion to address the feeling of distress you experienced when you went to the aid of your neighbour, should you ever find yourself in similar circumstances in the future.

    Do a basic first-aid course. Then you will know that you have made a worthwhile contribution, rather than just waiting for the ambulance. Even simple, first-aid level intervention can make the difference between life and death, especially in the case of heart attacks and similar situations. And even when such interventions prove to be unsuccessful, you know you have tried your best to preserve life. Indeed, the life you save may be that of your own child.

  5. This is the heritage of those who love God. There is nothing better. My husband, sitting beside me, made that comment. I repeated it to you because this is something I’ve wanted to write you since I read your Easter post this morning. Yes, we will die. And also, we will live eternally. Be encouraged by this, it is your heritage. Because of the work that Jesus did on the Cross, we are free from fear, we are free of death. Death has lost it’s sting.

    • Thanks for those words, ruthie.

      By the grace of God, feeling the weight of my mortality has been matched by feeling the weight of eternal glory. Death has indeed lost it’s sting! 🙂

      God bless,

      Akos

  6. Hi Akos,
    Three quick points:
    1. Congratulations on how you helped your poor neighbour – invoking earthly agencies rather than trusting the illusory power of prayer.
    2. Look at what you say is a denial of REALITY. The reality is that death is one of the few certainties we have. An afterlife is speculation.
    3. Therefore we should make the most of this life. “Let’s eat, drink, and be merry – for tomorrow we die” is not the only recipe, nor one of the good ones. Check out the Epicureans for a start.

    Cheers,
    Martin Hadley

    • Hi Martin,

      Thankyou for your comment!

      I understand what you’re saying, but in response:

      1) An afterlife is speculation only if nobody has come back from the dead. I think the evidence points strongly in favour of Jesus having come back from the dead, therefore there is an afterlife.

      (I’m not sure how much you’ve looked into the claims of Christianity, but the soon to be released ‘Case for Christ’ movie is a (non-Cheesy!) dramatic exploration of the resurrection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhe8KhSxWGo)

      2) I understand that other people might have different recipes (I like your word) for making the most of this short life. However, any ‘closed view’ of this life is inherently vulnerable to mockery from the full stop that is death…why struggle, strain, and do good to others, if you’re going to die anyway, and if the universe is going to collapse on itself and disappear? It makes life inherently meaningless, as far as I can tell…

      Thanks for engaging,

      Akos

  7. I am 47 this year never had mid life crisis. This year though is my 40th year as a servant of Jesus. Knowing the eternal hope and grace of God has been my rock and also seeing beyond me through what Christ has done and will finish has helped me.

  8. Aah….. Akos.
    Just wait till you reach 70 (if you can by-pass the next thirty years without incident) when you remember that the days of man are but three score and ten (maybe four score if he is strong) but the days of trouble will be many thereof!
    Even if you are fit and healthy you begin to realize that the next seemingly insignificant pain may actually be the one that transports you into the next life.

    Thank God that we have been born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!

    In the meantime we groan…with the aches and pains of these cheap clay pots that we live in!

    • Thanks for that perspective Ron!

      I particularly loved the line: ‘Even if you are fit and healthy you begin to realize that the next seemingly insignificant pain may actually be the one that transports you into the next life.’

      Well put! 🙂

      God bless,

      Akos

  9. I can completely relate to your reality shock Akos but mine didn’t hit until I turned 60 which was a few short years ago. I’ve never thought about my mortality more than I have in the last few years.

    It’s quite sobering and makes me glad I’ve lived for Christ since I was 19.

    I’d hate to get to this stage of life without an eternal perspective.