This one comes to us from Luke Roland.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Lately I’ve been meeting with a lot of clergy. They have unanimously said the same thing to me, “you are going through a slow death-like experience!” I feel like I should start preparing for some sort of weird metaphorical funeral.

Here lies Luke Roland the dearly departed. Or as Richard Pryor so eloquently says:

“We are gathered here today on this sorrowful occasion to say goodbye to the dearly departed. He was dearly and he has departed. Thus, that’s why we call him the dearly departed.”

I can hear Jerry Garcia singing in the background “Death don’t have no mercy in this land.” Death doesn’t respect anyone.

I tried to find a way out. I tried to prevent it. I got second, third, and fourth opinions. I prayed. I confessed. None of it worked. The diagnosis was in fact true.

But I’m fighting. I’m fighting this thing with everything I got, and I’m losing, and I know I’m going to lose. It’s like being on life support and the doctor is telling the family, “There really isn’t anything we can do for him. There is not much time left.”

One of the clergy members I met with recently told me that on the other side of this death will be the greatest freedom I’m ever going to experience. It felt like the last rites. I’m looking forward to finally crossing chilly Jordan, but that doesn’t make the trip (my death) any easier.

I started reading Robert Farrar Capon a few years ago. His writings really did a number on me. It was during that time in my life where I felt like I first heard the Gospel. The real Gospel. Capon writes a lot about grace, but he also writes a lot about death. I didn’t really get his writings on death. I couldn’t relate because I had a pulse. Now, with my heart rate dropping, I understand part of what he meant:

“Death is the operative device that sets us free in Christ — that liberates us from the fear of loss that otherwise dogs our every step.”

“The only ticket anyone needs to God’s party of grace and forgiveness is, by great good luck, the one ticket everybody has: death. Only after that–and only bit by bit–did I begin to understand the tragedy. I was not just devastated, or hurt, or ill-used, or broken; I was dead. Unless you have been through such an experience, you may find this overblown; but my life, as I had known it, was over, gone, kaput. If I ever lived again–and it was inconceivable to me that I could–it would not be by my hand.

“The portrait the Gospels paint is that of a lifeguard who leaps into the surf, swims to the drowning girl, and then, instead of doing a cross-chest carry, drowns with her, revives three days later, and walks off the beach with assurances that everything, including the apparently still-dead girl, is hunky-dory. You do not like that? Neither do I.”

That is exactly how I feel. I was having a good time swimming. Now, I’m in the ocean crying out “dear lord save me”, and that joker is cruelly dying with me. It is terrible. Suddenly Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” brings on new meaning.

Making peace with your own death is the ultimate relinquish of control, something that, like most of us, I am extremely afraid of doing. I really want to have a handle on things. My children, career, money, and relationships. This experience is like God removing my grip on my own life and I hate it. Dying hurts more than anything.

It seems strange, therefore, to think that this demise might be gift. That it brings the ultimate freedom. Yet death is emancipation from anxiety, fear, sickness, and worry. You can’t fear or worry when you are dead. The corpse doesn’t care how it looks at the funeral, what kind of casket it is in, what type of clothes it has on, and how many likes or retweets it got. It no longer cares about who gets what from their estate. Family feuds don’t bother the corpse. The daily grind has lost its ability to stress out the dead body. The corpse is free of all threats and accusations. They are totally free by their death. This is good news.

Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, when your gripping fingers are pried off your life, in a strange way you become more powerful than you were before. Vader, your mother in law, your boss, none of them can threaten you. “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”