by Jim Venable

I'd just dozed off, sometime after 11 p.m., when suddenly I awoke with a start. My pulse was racing, but my heart seemed cold as though something had gripped it. "I'm going to die." was the thought galloping through my brain. I'd always known I was mortal, but now it seemed so close, so imminent, so real. No one else was in the apartment we'd rented in Taipei. I'd been alone for about five weeks. "The signs of aging are coming faster now . . . creeping death, inexorable, inevitable . . . that's me," it came pounding in my soul. I'm getting older, too fast to contemplate. The years go by as weeks, the weeks as mere minutes. My head is spinning. The eternity of childhood is long gone. Those were days when there was a cure for everything. If I were sick, Mom and Dad knew what to do, and I got well. They loved me, and love always made things better. There was then no desperate fear . . . they would help no matter what.

But reality breaks through when the unthinkable happens . . . when neither family nor God Himself makes it better. It must be part of growing up; when we're forced to face life and death, tragedy and miracle . . . all alone. When Mom died . . . and we knew it was coming . . . she deteriorated over many months from cancer; I was just 21 years old, and only beginning to emerge from the cocoon-like fantasy that everything would be okay. Nothing bad would happen to us. Mom and Dad always knew what to do, and things would be all right. But Dad didn't know, except to pray (as we all did), and to look to God. And God took Mom away. Mom was strong, passionate, brilliant, intense, and knew love. But this overtook her, and changed my view of the world forever. It brought me and my family closer to God; ironically so, because He took Mama; but I knew that only He could be to me what my family had been. Only He knew how to restore confidence in love, and make everything okay. But He was incomprehensible, not to be felt, seen or grasped.

I'm a Christian. God is my Comfort. But now this Great Fear. I will lose who I am, and who I was. My name . . . Jim Venable; my middle name - Paul, named after Dad. Mom and Dad loved me, but they will be helpless when I slip away into the eternal clutches, when the heart turns cold, and the blackness engulfs. My name is only for this world. My body. My kneecaps, bearing the scar I got when I was about seven years old, when I fell while taking a walk with Dad . . . they will be gone. My arms, my legs, the face that everyone knew me by . . . the eyes and ears through which I learned about the world . . . all gone forever. The stories I have to tell, the things I used to do; the fun I had with my friends, the mischief I got into, can no longer be told . . . all gone. No one will come to me for advice. No one will tell me I did a good job, or that I play the guitar well. I have slipped away. The loved ones in the Church Fellowship may reach out, but they can't stop it. Family may weep, and mourn, hug, and kiss, but I will recede from them. Love won't help. I'm going to die. My life is totally described by what I know and do here in this world. There's no other reference point, no experience, no remembered cove where I can retreat when life is too much for me. Death removes all the props, and lets me free-fall . . .

Love gives life value. Just before Mom died, she asked Dad, "Did I love enough?" She knew that was the only important thing. Shortly, she said, "Do you hear the music?" There wasn't any music. "Yes, it's beautiful . . . ." In a little while, she was gone. Though we couldn't save her from death, we remember her love, and value her, as does God, for He is Love. Love alone lifts us to the eternal. Love doesn't prevent death, but conquers it. In some way, the promise of God is true, eternal life springs from the hearts of lovers. God treasures those who love Him and remembers them forever.

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(C) Jim Venable. All rights reserved.