The Vermillionville Cemetery is a short walk from our house. Headstones date back to the 1700s.
The age of the deceased is inscribed on many tombstones, in years, months and days.
A baby died five days after his birth. The simple words Mother and Father are etched on two stones the size of shoe boxes — no dates, no names. Inscriptions are impossible to read on several grave markers; the letters have been worn down by years of sun and rain, snow and storms. Some gravestones are broken and lying in small heaps.
I love walking through these relics of days gone by and thinking about the people who walked the same streets I walk, who have died, and whose souls have gone on to their eternal dwellings.
John Trapp, a theologian who more than 400 years ago, said, “There is a perfect time for a man to die, which, if he knew all there was to know about life, he would choose that time and no other.” I considered that quote often during the pandemic. COVID-19 has us all thinking about life and death.
One of the things that stands out most to me about the past two years is our passion for life. We love life and want to live it to the fullest for as long as possible. The desire for life is a good thing. Death is an enemy that will one day be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:26). But for now, it’s still the enemy.
Hezekiah, who lived in the 700s B.C., was a man like us. The Bible tells us he became sick and was at the point of death. Isaiah the prophet came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’ ” The Bible says, “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, ‘Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.’ ” And then Hezekiah wept bitterly. He didn’t want to die. (Hezekiah’s story is found in 2 Kings 20:1-6.)
I, too, want to live for as long as possible, but I’m not worried about dying. I believe, as did the Psalmist, that all the days ordained for me were written in God’s book, before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). I believe, as King Solomon and the apostle Paul did, the day of my death will be better than the day of my birth (Ecclesiastes 7:1, Philippians 1:21). I believe, as John Trapp did, the perfect time for me to die is settled in the heart of God. I’m good with that. I have confidence God will keep me alive until that day.
If I get COVID again, or cancer, or if I receive a terminal prognosis and death seems imminent, I’ll pray like Hezekiah did. I’ll remind God I can’t serve or praise Him on this Earth, if my body is in the grave. I’ll weep for the loss of this life and for loved ones left behind. I’ll ask God for more days and years here. And perhaps he will grant my request. But if not, I know I will have lived all the days God planned for me.
In case you’re wondering, God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and saw his tears. God healed him and added 15 years to his life.
- Kathy Hardee is a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, dog walker and God worshipper. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.