Usually we think and we talk about death as something abstract, something unreal. But on occasions when the casket of a beloved one is laid before our eyes, death becomes for all of us something more than real, something almost tangible.
To us death is the most terrible thing we know. However, the most horrible thing about it is that it lacks timeliness. Everything in our world has its time. The leaves of the trees have their time to fall, flowers to wither, and even stars their time to set. Only death has no regular time of its own. It can strike everywhere, anytime; babies and daddies, young and old, kings and beggars are its victims.
The strangest fact about death is that it seems to strike the innocent and the young, more than the sinner and the old. Wars are grim evidences to this fact. It is the young who die in wars by hundreds and thousands.
According to the Bible, death did not first strike Adam, the first man and the first sinner, nor Cain, the first offspring of man and the first killer, but Abel, the innocent, the young and the righteous one. That is why we hear so much about the saying: “whom God loves best, dies first”.
It looks that heaven needs not only mature men of ripe old age, but children and young people as well, for the formation of eternal humanity. We cannot imagine a perfect society without children and the younger set. The reward of dying young will be that of remaining young and with youthful charm for eternity.
It matters not at what age or at what hour we die. Death cannot come untimely to him or her who is fit to die. One of the Church Fathers has said: “There is but this difference between the death of old men and the young: The old men go to death; but death comes to the young. Let it come when it will, it can do the Christian no harm, for it will be but a passage out of a prison into a palace; out of a sea of troubles into a haven of rest”.
Our fear of death is like the terror of children in the night, the night with its darkness, with its uncertainty, and with its feverish dreams. However, when the night passes away and when we awake, it will be the sunlight of eternity. After the darkness of the night will appear God’s great morning, lighting up the sky. Someone has this to say about death: “Death to a good man is but a passing through a dark entry, out of one little dusky room of his father’s house, into another that is fair and large, lightsome and glorious”.
We picture death as one coming to destroy; let us rather picture it as coming to save.
We think of death, as ending; let us rather think of it as beginning.
We think of it as losing; let us think of it as gaining.
We think of it as parting; let us think of it as meeting.
As the voice of death whispers, “you must go from the earth”, let us hear the voice of Christ saying, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. (Matt. 10:29).
May the good Lord give this rest and heavenly happiness to all our beloved ones who have fallen asleep in Christ. May God give courage to all of us, who will one day face death.
Archbishop Shnork Kaloustian (27 September 1913 – 7 March 1990) was the 82nd Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. He was orphaned at age 2 and educated at an American missionary orphanage, ordained a deacon in 1932 and became a priest in 1936, bishop in 1955 and patriarch in 1961; he had served as pastor of several churches in the U.S. and England and authored many books on the Armenian Liturgy and History. He died on March 7, 1990 in Yerevan, Armenia, of injuries sustained in a fall. He had been visiting victims of the 1988 Armenian earthquake.