Tag Archives: death

O’ Death

Ralph Stanley, bluegrass musician, died yesterday at 89. He was probably most known for singing, “O Death,” a traditional American folk song:

Won’t you spare me over til another year
Well what is this that I can’t see
With ice cold hands takin’ hold of me
Well I am death, none can excel
I’ll open the door to heaven or hell
Whoa, death someone would pray
Could you wait to call me another day
The children prayed, the preacher preached
Time and mercy is out of your reach
I’ll fix your feet til you cant walk
I’ll lock your jaw til you cant talk
I’ll close your eyes so you can’t see
This very hour, come and go with me
I’m death I come to take the soul
Leave the body and leave it cold
To draw up the flesh off of the frame
Dirt and worm both have a claim
O, Death
O, Death
Won’t you spare me over til another year
My mother came to my bed
Placed a cold towel upon my head
My head is warm my feet are cold
Death…

Stanley, interestingly, came from a Primitive Baptist Universalist background. This tiny Appalachian denomination is distinctive in that they do not believe in any type of parachurch ministry (the “primitive” part), they practice “believers’ baptism” by adults, and …. they deny the existence of an eternal hell.

But it is worth also considering the testimony of Scripture, for those who are in Christ Jesus: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55 ESV)


The Fear of Death

Bruton Parish Church courtyard... where my parents remains are buried.

Bruton Parish Church courtyard… where my parents remains are buried.

There is …a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance (from Ecclesiastes 1:1-8).

Over the past year, I have lost both of my parents to death. Less than a month ago, my dad died. It has been very interesting, watching the reactions of people who hear the news. Cordially, everyone is sorry for my loss. But it is astonishing how many folks will then gloss over the reality of death in their efforts to be nice to me.

For example, I am quite frank in saying that my father died. But most people I run into would rather talk euphemistically about someone’s passing instead. I am sure it is a desire to be polite and not offend a grieving person, but when someone passes, what does that really mean? Does that really tell the truth about death?

Here is a list of some sentiments that have been expressed to me over the past month:

“At least there is an end to your dad’s suffering. There is too much suffering in the world.”

“Your dad is in a better place. He is with your mother now.”

“Your dad is looking down upon you now… and smiling!”

All of these are quite bold statements, if you think about them. How do we know there is no suffering after death? How do we know that a loved-one is in a happier, better place, with others that are also loved… and smiling? Are any of these assertions true?

A curious one is that both my mom and dad are together now, implying that they are still married in the afterlife. But according to classic Bible teaching in Matthew 22:23-33, the bonds of matrimony are terminated upon death. Mormons, however, do believe that marriage goes on into eternity, but my parents were never Mormons, though we did have some Mormon missionaries knock on our door once back in 1978. I think they gave my mom some kind of pamphlet while my dad snuck out the back door to go cut the grass.

So, what then is the basis for the truthfulness of any of these assertions? Is scientific substantiation possible? Is it through some sort of revelation from a divine being, an intervention into human history? Or is it through the speculation offered by one’s own wishful thinking? How reliable is that? Could it be, that such sentimentality is a type of coping mechanism designed to take our minds off of what we fear the most?
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