Three days ago I had the honor of participating in the “celebration of life” for my friend, Blake Martin (pictured here), who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.
Blake was an exceptional young man whose death sent shock waves throughout our entire community — military and civilian alike.
It’s fair to say that Blake touched more lives in his 20 short years than most people do in a lifetime. You don’t have to take my word for it, though; you can read it for yourself here, here and here.
It’s fair to ask how anyone could “celebrate” in the midst of such devastating circumstances.
Is that just a religious euphemism that denies reality? Are we self-medicating through our vocabulary? Or are we just plain nuts?
Those are good questions. Those are reasonable questions.
The question about what happens to a person after he/she dies is something that every person will wrestle with at some point.
Death is universal.
Yet a core belief of Christianity is that eternal life is promised to anyone who (1) confesses that Jesus is Lord (implying a lifestyle dedicated to following the teachings of Jesus) and (2) believes in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead (believing with your “heart” requires faith — not empirical evidence).
And so it is for the believer that death is nothing to fear — it is simply a rite of passage from one reality to the next.
“These are trying exercises for us—not deaths; they cause us to think of the glory that lies ahead and remind us to prepare for eternity….Our friends who have been freed from this world should not be mourned, since we know they are not lost but simply sent ahead; that in departing they lead the way; that as travellers and [sailors] tend to be, they should be missed, but not lamented….for no reason should be given for unbelievers to scorn us deservedly and justly, on the grounds that we grieve for those who we say are living.” - Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, 251 A.D.
Watching, listening, and grieving alongside the Martin family taught me some things that I want to share with you:
1. Never underestimate the value of spiritual preparedness; tomorrow is promised to no one.
2. In key relationships, have no regrets. Say what you need to say; do what you need to do; fix what you need to fix.
3. You have the power to change lives; change them for the better.
4. Even in your darkest hour find something to be thankful for; it will strengthen your soul.
5. Watch for motorcycles; and ignore your cell phone while you’re driving.
We’ll miss you, Blake.
I look forward to seeing you again. ~Kraig