Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Taps and Reveille

I have been at the bedside of three people whom I watched give their last breath:  my mother in 1976, my husband in 1991 and Dorothy Thompson (Doris Colvett's mom) in 2010.  It is an awsome thing to be in the presence of one who is slipping from this life to another. 

The observer cannot help but wonder just what happens in that instant--is there really a bright light, the sound of angel's wings, Peter welcoming at the gate?  The Bible says virtually nothing about the time.  Stephen fell asleep.  Peter wrote about putting off his tabernacle, Paul said that the time of my departure is at hand.   The only time the word dead is used is with qualification:  the dead in Christ, the dead which die in the Lord.

So it is life's greatest mystery.  We don't talk about it much and go to great lengths to avoid it.  Yet the odds are great:  100 out of 100 die.

I like the account of Winston Churchill's funeral.  There were stately hymns in St. Paul's Cathedral and an impressive liturgy.  When the benediction was said, Churchill had arranged for a bugler high in the dome of St. Paul's to play "Taps", the universal signal that the day is over.  But when that was finished, there was a long pause and a bugler on the other side played "Reveille", the signal of a new day beginning.  And that is exactly what death is for a Christian--Taps and Reveille.

My favorite epitaph is that of Benjamin Franklin which I was privileged to see in Philadelphia:

                                                           The Body of
                                                      B. Franklin, Printer
                                           Like the Cover of an old Book
                                                      It's Contents torn out
                                         And Stript of its Lettering & Gilding
                                                    Lies here, Food for Worms
                                                    For, it will as he believed
                                                         appear once more
                                          In a new and more elegant Edition
                                                         corrected and improved
                                                             By the Author.

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