Your spirit is always present and you yourself are always near by.
You force your way into our minds with your presence
even in our happiest moments.
You show no mercy: coming when you choose, especially when we are not ready and staying away when our suffering is so great
that your presence would be an answer to our prayers.
Your presence among us appears to be random and indiscriminate:
no pattern, undeserved and the cruelest of deeds!
Your presence heightens our fears and makes us so fully aware of our
powerlessness and our vulnerability.
You snatch away those we love and refuse our offer of substitute sacrifice, making our pain even more unbearable as we are forced to live
without our beloved.
Your presence in our lives deprives us of even a sense of justice—for there is no fairness in your capricious journey.
Your willing companion Evil uses you to inflict brutal pain wherever it may.
Together, you and Evil create a tyranny that appears at times
to even overcome the fortresses of God!
The Holocaust, jets crash into Twin Towers, genocide, bombings of innocents and who knows what unspeakable horrors you together are now plotting!
Our media heralds your presence and details your daily travels.
Our obituaries tell the stories of those cut down
more often than not long before their proper time.
Our movies and television spare us no detail in your real
or imagined path of destruction among us.
Our hearts become either heavy or hardened by the stories of your work and those whom you have claimed.
“Heavy” because your deeds have pierced our hearts and
irretrievably broken a bond of earthly love and devotion.
Or “hardened” because the pain is simply too heavy to bear and
we dare not risk either compassion or care.
With “Death be not proud”, we have rebuked you.
With “O grave, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting”, we defy you.
And yet, our rebukes and our defiance do not deter you.
And, as for us, our efforts to prepare for you, to even “befriend” you,
do not often result in our welcoming you.
You come despite our protests and we are not ready
even though we know you will arrive for us!
We speak of tragic deaths, good deaths, death as ending suffering,
prolonged deaths, and even death as mercifully swift.
We speak of your many faces as if your presence will be less painful to us—more easily understood—at least more just if not completely so!
And yet, the pain of parting, the senselessness of so many takings,
the fruit of your unholy alliance with Evil, and
the inevitability of your visit to each of us,
prevents us from ignoring you and
requires that each one of us deal with you!!
As for me, I say to you:
You shall not win!
Even though I know that you will continue to have your way and
I cannot stop your cruel assault:
You shall not triumph!
For even though you can stop my heartbeat, you cannot take my heart!
Even though you can stop my breath, you cannot extinguish the love of God that lives at the center of my being!
No, you shall not be triumphant!
For I know that my victory has already been won in Christ Jesus and
all I need to do is to remain faithful!
No, Death, you shall not be the victor!
God blessed me with the twin gifts of Life and God’s Love.
Life and the opportunity to say back to God: I love you too!
And the gift of God’s Love—and the blessing to receive it through others and to share it with others.
We are told: “Perfect love casts out fear” and I know this to be true
because when I live my life mindful of the love of God my fear of you disappears!
My heart has been pierced so many times by your presence:
but each time has opened my heart even wider—
better able to see God’s love and has allowed me to respond
with even more care and more compassion!
God’s love has allowed me to see with the eyes of my heart even better
that I am inextricably linked by God’s love with those that I love!
Each loss I experience from your cruel hand reminds me that they too are loved by God and through God’s love we can never be separated and will remain forever linked!
Even as my heart grieves each loss, I come to see even better the true blessings of life: the opportunity to live life remaining faithful to the love-bond that only appears to have ended, but continues to live within my own heart and within the embrace of God’s love!
No, Death, you shall not prevail!
As for me, your ever-presence reminds me of the importance of living life more fully and being more faithful to the gift that life is!
Your ever-presence propels me to risk by caring more and sharing more!
Your ever-presence brings me closer to God and prompts me to live my life in the presence of God—as the Giver of both life and love!
Death—you will have your way with me and those I love,
but you shall not be triumphant!
For by the grace of God and with God’s love in my heart,
I shall respond to your presence and your taking.
For you are but a moment in time, and
I know you shall not win!
For you cannot take away my hope, my love, and
the confidence that at the moment of your arrival I, and those I love,
shall be embraced by God and
dissolve in the arms of God’s love—
and there we will be safe beyond your reach!
And so, I too am able to say to you:
“Death be not proud.”
“O grave, where is thy victory?
O Death, where is thy sting?”
For Death, you have not won, and I know the Victor!!