The first time I ever visited the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, I was terrified. As a kid, I was blessed with an overly active and vivid imagination. And I’d read too many “Tales From The Crypt” comic books. I had no understanding of death–no one I was close to had passed away. Surrounded by ghosts, creepy graveyards and levitating objects, Disney achieved the fear factor it sought.
My perspective has changed dramatically. Gratefully. Death no longer scares me because I’ve an unwavering conviction that I’m bound for heaven.
I’ve spent time this past week with dear friends who are grieving the recent tragic death of their oldest son. B was in the prime of life. He was a college student whose capacity for making deep relationships was rivaled only by his ability to empathetically connect with others. A young man of character and integrity.
As I sat in the memorial service celebrating B’s life, it was pointed out more than once that he’d left a legacy in his brief 19 years that older people would envy. A young man who lived full out, full on, engaging life with passion and compassion. Touching lives around him with care and love.
Death is tragic because it leaves behind loved ones who struggle with filling the gaps left by its untimeliness. Someone special has been torn away from family and friends, leaving a void in life that can’t be filled with other people. Death is a tattoo on the heart. A painful imprint as it’s happening, always there, always impacting the bearer. It forever changes who you are. How you do life. How you see life.
But when there’s assurance that the one who’s gone will someday be seen again, it changes the landscape of grief. Death can’t hold any greater fear than the created characters of the Haunted Mansion.
B’s reality is that he knew the living God. He had a relationship with Jesus, the God who loved the world enough to die for it. Not an unknowable, distant, unconcerned God. But One who came to earth, living life among us to tell us about His love. To offer His life as a ransom for ours. To give us the chance to intimately get to know the One who made us.
People panic in the face of death because they question where they’ll be going. What awaits us after this life here? Is this all there is? So many rely on the hope that their good will outweigh their bad, and that will allow them entrance into heaven.
B knew better. He’d developed a relationship with Jesus that gave him the boldness to love others well. To reflect God to a world desperate for people who would listen and love from an engaged heart. He knew he was forgiven in his relationship with Jesus. He lived offering that to others.
There are so many of us who truly miss this outstanding young man. But those who know Jesus will one day be reunited with B in heaven.
And it will be a party.
The alternative is whole lot worse than the Haunted Mansion.
What will be your legacy?