Before the Wall, death greets life. Names, lined up tightly, sons, brothers, friends—objects of love and affection.
Looking at the Wall with one’s sons in the foreground is a terrifying experience. Even the tropical heat of Pearl Harbor can’t warm death’s icy stare. Boys. That’s what they were. Just a few years before wearing the sailor’s uniform, these valiant soldiers were mere boys. This was before December 7, 1941.
Seeing my sons against the backdrop of the Wall reminds me that we are born to die. Not that death is our purpose, but we are born on a mortal trajectory which steadily marches toward the grave.
How can we face death without being terrorized by it? We speak easily about what makes for the good “life.” This is especially so here in beautiful Hawaii. But we are often reticent to discuss the inevitability of death. My boys, walking blissfully hand-in-hand are able to deal with it because of their ignorance. We adults also have ways of ignoring death’s cold gaze. But let me suggest that there is a better way.
Let us recognize that while all of creation stands against the backdrop of death, death itself exists before a bigger reality. Jesus the Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, has taken the eternal sting out of death, making it possible for us to not only stand before the Wall with hope, but, further still, to unfurl our hearts in worship. The Lord’s shed blood and empty tomb is the final word.
As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”