Turning shadow of death into light of morning

Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

A course on death and dying captivated my son from the very first class.

The professor challenged the students to set aside any religious convictions they might have about death. They were, at least for the duration of the course, to accept the following premise: Death is real and it is final.

My son struggled with this. After all, he'd been raised in a family where virtually all of us - representing several denominations - believed that there's a lot more to life than complex biological functions. And most of the family felt that God's power somehow transcends death.

The Bible, for instance, says that God "turneth the shadow of death into the morning" (Amos 5:8). And the Gospels burn with the afterglow of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. "Christ our Savior defeated death and brought us the good news," according to the Scriptures. "It shines like a light and offers life that never ends" (II Tim. 1:10, Contemporary English Version).

Basically, my son believed these things. But he felt caught in the middle. Eventually, as the professor continued her persuasions, he concluded she was right: death was real and final.

"But if I'm wrong about this," he said, "I know something will tell me."

And it did. Late one night, my son was studying at a restaurant. He saw a homeless woman walk past and head across the street. Seconds later, a car screeched through a red light, hit the woman, and sped off.

My son was the first to reach the scene - and he did his best to console the woman. But she died while they were waiting for the police.

As soon as he could, my son called and asked me to pray for him. He was shaking all over. I told him God was right there to comfort him - and that He would comfort the woman, too. I wasn't sure what else he was ready to hear, given his new ideas about death.

After he returned to his apartment, we talked several more times. He just couldn't get over the shock of what had happened. And nothing I said seemed to be helping.

Then, finally, I blurted out to my son what it was that I felt in my heart.

"God is that woman's Life!" I told him. "So she couldn't possibly have lost her life, because she could never lose God. He's everywhere. She'll never be outside of His love. What's real about that woman is spiritual. It's forever. And death just isn't real."

My son listened silently. Later he called to thank me.

"I know what you said is true," he said, "because it helped me. It's the only thing that helped me."

It's not just coincidence that the major religions of the world all affirm some form of eternal life. The fact is, life is unending. Because Life is God. Dr. Elisabeth Kbler-Ross, author of the much-acclaimed 1969 book "On Death and Dying," has come increasingly close to saying this herself in recent years. Jesus' resurrection proves, she wrote, "that death does not exist, that death is only a transition to a different form of living" ("Healing in Our Time," pg. 50).

Christian Science explains why such a statement - "that death does not exist" - is valid. It explains that we're not born into matter. And we don't die out of it. If we did, God would have to die too, because we express Him. But God can't die, nor can we. Because He's not material, and neither are we. He's pure Spirit. And we're spiritual. He's immortal. And we are, too.

The divine reality of life in and of God obviates death. It reduces death to what Mary Baker Eddy says it is: "An illusion, the lie of life in matter; the unreal and untrue; the opposite of Life" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 584).

That's news that will never get old. News that turns the shadow of death into the lovely light of dawn.

Now if Christ be preached

that he rose from the dead,

how say some among you that there is no resurrection

of the dead?

I Corinthians 15:12

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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