Do not go gentle into that good night …

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

So Dylan Thomas, the Welch poet, wrote and the older I become as a Christian (both chronologically and spiritually I believe) the more I agree with him.

This afternoon as I worked on my skills in AutoCAD I find tear flowing down my cheeks over the death of someone I have never met. Aly West, the sister of mine and Debbie’s friend Erika Chambers, passed away this afternoon after a heroic battle with cancer. Erika was a student at MTSU when we first moved to Murfreesboro and attended Trinity. Like many at Trinity in those days, Erika was looking to be a recording artist. She has had some success at that but not as much as Debbie and I think she should! She has a wonderful voice and Debbie and I always enjoyed listening to her.

One of Erika's CDs

We have kept up over the years through some of her appearances but mostly on Facebook and My Space. But then we met up with her about a year ago to attend  a Sara Groves concert together.  Though we had not seen each other in several years, it was a wonderful reunion (and Sara Groves was wonderful as well!). Then or soon after Erika let us know that her sister Aly had cancer. This is how Erika describes Aly:

Aly West is a vibrant, 26-year old who exudes creativity like few people can imagine. A costume designer, seamstress, graphic artist and photographer, there isn’t much this girl can’t tackle.

Erika and Aly and her family are committed Christians. They know that God is in charge of our world and that he is a loving and caring Father but Aly’s family, along with Aly’s husband Terry, they were not going to let Aly “go gentle into that good night” . They were going to fight. In Erika’s words “fight like girls”. They did this because as Christians they knew that there is just something wrong with cancer, there is just something wrong with death. So Erika started a Facebook group, “Team Aly”, to enlist prayer support for Aly and

her family and Debbie and I joined in for this wonderful young woman who was facing such a battle. It proved to be, however, a battle that after a lot of “fighting like a girl”, cancer won. Aly died this afternoon and as I said I have been weeping off and on ever since Erika let us know.

But that does not mean that Aly, Erika, their parents and Aly’s husband Terry lost because they know the truth that though death may have won this battle. Jesus has won the war! This is how Erika described that moment when Aly left this world to enter another one:

Our precious girl was wrapped in the arms of Jesus and flown to heaven. .. surrounded by family, prayer and praise. No more pain. She is rejoicing with the Lord.

When it was time to “fight like a girl” they fought. When it was time to embrace Jesus, they did just that. Debbie and I are thankful to be able to be part of this team. I think that Aly, Erika and the rest fought “like girls” because they know that this is not the way it is suppose to be. Death was not in our Father’s original plans, it is the plan of the enemy of our souls. Many Christians look at I Corinthians 15 as if death was no longer and enemy, as if everything was alright. But here is what God tells us in that passage:

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1Co 15:1 NIV)

Paul says that when our resurrection occurs, when Jesus returns then we can yell at death: “Where is your victory? Where is your sting”? Until then death does sting. It separates us from those we love. Jesus understood this when he wept at the tomb of Lazarus. He is a “man of sorrow and acquainted with grief”. But Paul does tell in just a few verses later “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. (1Co 15:1 NIV)

John Donne got it right, Paul Simon was wrong “No man is an island”. Some time ago I posted that Donne’s word in this poem become more and more real to me the older I get: “any man’s (or in this case woman’s) death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind”. Donne, of course, writing as a metaphysical poet does not mean this in what many would consider a “humanist perspective” (though Christians should be the true “humanists”) but as a Christian who know that all men and women are created in the image of God and therefore are spiritually linked to him.

So I am diminished by Aly’s death. I am diminished as I think of Terry married only 4 years and becoming a widower. I am diminished as I think of Aly’s parents facing the future after the death of a daughter. I am diminished as I think of Erika’s loss of her beloved sister but all of this brings a renewed opportunity to renew my hatred for death and give me renewed hope in the promise of our own resurrection. God did not design us for a “disembodied” existence! He has promise bodies that will never out! He has promised us a world with “Not one little grave, in all that fair land”. Many will laugh at this, many may mock but it is the promise of our Father and our Older Brother has gone to the “undiscovered country” and come back! He did this to ensure that death and the devil do not win in the end. Death is not the final word!Maybe, just maybe in that new heaven and new earth we will all be able to wear some of Aly’s designer creations and hear Erika sing and enjoy all these things with our glorious Older Brother.

As I finish this blog entry an Emmylou Harris and Ricky Scaggs duet of “Green Pastures” has started pouring out of my Ipod. Sometimes God’s timing is uncanny.

So join me in praying for Terry and Erika and her parents. Pray that our Father will comfort those who are afflicted and that they my grieve but not as those who have no hope. They have the greatest of hopes, the gospel, that promises not only glory in this life but also in the life to come.

Remember also the some other words of John Donne

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me…
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

(Since I never met Aly, I did not feel free to post pictures of her here but if you want to find out more about this wonderful woman go to these places on Facebook: Aly West, Aly West Custom Designer and Team Aly).