Death and Taxes

“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
    I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
    Where, O grave, is your destruction?

  • Hosea 13:14

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.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:54-58

“Pain is terrible, but surely you need not have fear as well?  Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer?  It means stripping off that body which is tormenting you: like taking off a hair shirt or getting out of a dungeon.  What is there to be afraid of?  You have long attempted (and none of us does more) a Christian life.  Your sins and confessed and absolved.  Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret?  There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.

“Remember, tho’ we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round – we get afraid because we struggle.  Are you struggling, resisting?  Don’t you think our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace.  Relax.  Let go.  Underneath are the everlasting arms.  Let go.  I will catch you.  Do you trust me so little?

“Of course this may not be the end.  Then make it a good rehearsal.”

  • C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady

Yesterday, I wrote that Lewis’ book provided insights into the author.  The last ten letters delivered insights, indeed.  The quote above comes from a letter that was written on 17 June 1963, merely five months before Lewis passed away.

Lewis talks of his renal failure and the transfusions in the letters.  He wrote a letter on 16 July 1963, dreading the transfusion that was coming the next day.  While at the nursing home, the location of the transfusion, Lewis had a heart attack.  The next letter was written by Walter Hooper, Lewis’ secretary, but signed “Jack,” Lewis’ preferred nickname among his friends.  This letter starts in third person, since Lewis was unable to write and hallucinating.  The letter ends in first person.  It was posted in the mail before the error was detected.  The next letter was signed by Walter Hooper explaining the events of the previous month.  The letter from Mr. Hooper, of 10 August 1963, seemed to indicate that the ‘Professor’ would never again write.  But twenty days later, Jack wrote a short note, complaining that his brother was away, and he had to do his own correspondence.  He was comfortable, but tired.  He ends with “So you must expect my letters to be very few and very short.  More a wave of the hand than a letter.  Yours, Jack.”

This ends the book.  He had encouraged his American Lady friend through her dress rehearsal with death but inadvertently, or maybe on purpose, prepared himself at the same time.

It is very fitting that this be posted today.  When this comes out, my wife and I should be resting after a trip to the doctor’s office.  My wife did not see the doctor today, rather the renal failure counselor.  Do not worry.  Prayer is always good, but the nephrologist, kidney doctor, came up with a marvelous idea.

He said that my wife may never go into end stage renal failure, as C. S. Lewis did shortly before his death.  She could die of something else first.  If all else were fine, he’d give her 5 or even 10 years before she needs to worry.  But she had a bout of bacterial pneumonia a couple of years ago.  Her kidney function dropped, not recovering much.  Her kidney function slightly improved after open-heart surgery about a year ago, but the resulting atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) caused the kidney function to go back down.  The A-Fib went away, but the kidney function did not improve.  Then she had the flu, which caused the A-Fib to reappear, and the kidney function got dangerously low.  It was so low that it caused her second hospitalization a week after the flu and A-Fib combination caused the first.  The kidney function slowly recovered to the pre-flu level.

Then the doctor said that the next illness may not have that characteristic of recovery.  She may, at that point face end stage renal failure.  Would it not be better to see the counselor and examine options when dealing with a hypothetical situation?  At this point, the mind is clear, not muddled with the ‘fear.’ That’s the fear Lewis said not to have.  At this point, there are no alarm bells clanging.  We can make clear, logically prepared decisions.  We do not have to panic because the doctor needs an answer.  Now!

We all face the things that are inevitable, death and taxes.  We can face them with a smile or fear.  If we trust God, we need not face either of them with fear.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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