One year ago today, a NYC firefighter, lost his life in a house fire. The firefighter wasn’t scheduled to work that night, but he did. It wasn’t the kind of fire you would expect to take a life, but it did. He was my 46-year old cousin, Bobby. My younger cousin, who I grew up with…who I loved.
We expect things to operate according to a story line that makes sense to us. So we say: People shouldn’t die young. They shouldn’t die while their parents are still alive. They shouldn’t die while they still have young children who need them. And they shouldn’t die in horrible accidents that deprive us of an opportunity to say good-bye…to tell them one last time how much we love them.
But they do and he did. And so here we are – my family and I – one year later still feeling the loss. Still mourning his death. Still shedding tears at the empty space he once occupied.
I’ve talked about death before. Death is always hard and the death of a young person even harder. The only thing that makes it possible for me to bear is the certainty of resurrection. My absolute belief in the words Jesus spoke to Martha after the death of her beloved brother Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
And so secure in the knowledge of resurrection, let me share, as I did once before, the words of John Donne in Death Be Not Proud.
DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
Death shall be no more. Death, thou shalt die.