When Dan died at 47 years old, it seemed so young. It may seem long to someone else grieving a life gone at 29. Or 19. Or 9.
We know that life is terminal but none of us expects that it should come before our very senior years. And anything less seems so short.
As the kids and I gathered for our first family Bible time in the weeks after Dan died, God gave me a picture that reoriented me. We had slowly been making our way through the Bible and I was ready to open to the next chapter when this idea just appeared. (I attribute this directly to the many prayers said on our behalf. So many were praying for us and it accomplished so much for us. More than once, God very practically gave me words or thoughts or verses that were just what we needed and so healing.)
So instead of reading the next chapter, we each got a pen and blank piece of paper. We turned the paper lengthwise and drew a timeline. First, we marked our birth and then our possible age of death.
Next, we put a mark at age 47, the span of Dan’s life.
Then I told the kids to continue drawing their timeline into eternity. Well, we couldn’t do it on paper. We imagined the line going well off our page, stretching to the end of the horizon, to the stars of the Milky Way and into the universe as far as we could picture.
That was just the first week of eternity. No matter where we imagined the line stopping, it kept going and going and going.
And then we thought about eternity past. Off the left side of the page, a line that went farther back than we could even imagine into the past. We looked back at the marks for our lifespan and Dan’s life.
Did Dan die young? Measured against a 90-year life, yes. But measured against eternity?
We are dots on the line. Our lives – even if we live a full century – are tiny dots in the scope of eternity.
I asked the kids how the Bible describes life. “It’s a vapor. A mist. Like a breath; a passing shadow.” (James 4:14; Psalm 39:5; Psalm 144:4)
This perspective didn’t lessen the pain. Dan’s death hurt. We have grieved deeply and we would give anything to have him here with us. But seeing the small difference between Dan’s lifespan and another long life against that extending line of eternity, left me with an adjusted view and some peace.
Life is terminal for all of us. God intended us for eternity. There is a lot of good in the dot, but so much of it will never matter when it comes to that eternal line after the dot. I want my days to count for eternity.