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’.
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?
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!