This year is 31st anniversary of my Father’s death.
At the age of 42, Paolo Petrini was riding his Kawasaki ZX750 motor bike home from an early morning shift with Qantas Catering, servicing arriving aircraft from Europe and the US. It was 1pm on a warm Sydney Summer Saturday afternoon, January 23, 1988. About 1 kilometre from home he passed through an intersection. Coming to the same intersection was a woman who had just picked up her children from her mother’s place. She approached the intersection which indicated for her to stop. The kids were playing up in the back seat. She turned around to scold them, in doing so, inadvertently pressed down on the accelerator with her foot.
Death has a real impact on life. It changes your world. The day my father died completely changed my world. It changed the direction I was going in life. It shaped my character, my thoughts, and my dreams.
Death also has a sense of finality to it. It’s like the ultimate full stop.
I made a note on Facebook, commemorating my Father’s passing. A comment was made to me that my father continued to live in my memory. But what happens to my father when I am gone? When the memories of those who knew him are no longer there? What about the multitudes of those that passed before us?
In the movie “Coco” a young boy struggles with his family’s traditions. He searches out his great grandfather who had passed away years before. This leads his search to the entrance to Tierra De Muertos (the land of the dead), where all dead people get to live if they are remembered well. There he discovers that the dead people that get forgotten disappear, almost like a second death. When the memory of a past family member is forgotten, they are truly gone.
Death does that. Our ancestors are people who just live in the distant past. People who lived in the deep past that we have no personal connection with other than being on our family tree. Their personality. Their individuality. Their likes and dislikes. Their beliefs and passions and dreams. All gone. All forgotten.
But as Christians, we believe something different.
God does not forget.
There is no one He forgets.
Furthermore. Death is not the ceasing of existence.
Death in Ancient Hebrew is מָוֶת. It comes from the root m-w-t (to die), pronounced mavet. It is the source of the word “mate” as in checkmate. But the Israelites saw death, and interpreted it, as a deep sleep. They were well aware of the resurrection and the afterlife (listen to Mary’s response to Jesus in relation to her brother’s death in John 11:24).
When a person dies they don’t become a “was.” Our natural inclination is to speak of them in the past tense. But if we truly believe in life after death, when a person dies, they continue being an “is.” They continue to exist.
There is sadness with death, but not emptiness.
There is the assuredness of seeing one another again.