Death changes things. It changes more than removing the presence of someone. It changes cars, porches, beds, tables, atmospheres, homes. A home once filled with laughter and love becomes a place of sobs and sorrow. It’s enough to make your stomach fall just walking into a once familiar setting. Suddenly, everything seems lost. The smells from the kitchen lack the extra spice that only they could add. The dent in the couch begins its long recovery to normal formation. The hallway screams with absence. The porch weeps with the wind on a warm summer night as the chimes play their desolate song.
The car parked in the driveway needs to be sold, but not yet. The tools in the shop must be parted with, but not yet. The clothes in the closet hold tight to the scent of the departed, unyielding as winter’s cold. Pictures hanging on the wall, sitting on nightstands and dressers, stuck to the refrigerator by magnets remind us all of the life that once was, and will never be again. By their taunts we long for just one more normal day, even a bad normal day. Anything to revert back to the feeling of normalcy before.
Death changes things. It turns joy into despair, peace into rage, fullness into emptiness. It takes without asking and promises no hope of return. It is final, and finality changes things. We can’t go back. We can’t recreate the way things used to be. We can watch videos, look at pictures, recall memories, but even then those moments don’t seem the same. We notice the color of the shirt, the slant of the smile, the squint of the eyes, the tone of the voice, and the softness of the face as if we’re noticing someone for the first time, though we’ve known them all our lives. The future we believed would always include them now turns to the past we long to hold on to. The present sadness reaches back in time to the past happiness, even past pains, because even living pain is better than death.
Death changes things, and there is no way around it. We cannot escape it. So we cry. We weep. We get up every day with an unshifting burden. We plod through the day, avoiding the night because night illuminates memories in a way the sun cannot. Blue skies don’t develop what once was, they point to the glory that lays beyond, but starry skies remind us of what remains after everything else fades.
Death changes other things, too. It changes the way we view other people. Those grieving become more dear to us. Death changes the outward demeanor of even the most hardened of people. It cracks us open like nothing else can. It removes the veil and breaks the glass shrouding our feeble hearts. It gives us a view into the humanity of people – some we thought perhaps were barely human to begin with.
It changes the way we view the world. It alters our outlook. It rearranges our lives. Sometimes that’s for the good, sometimes for the bad. But one thing remains certain: death changes things.
And after the shock has worn off and the grind of daily life returns, the sunset looks a bit more radiant. The smell of a spring morning is fresher. The taste of coffee is less bitter. The tight hug of another person is more comforting. The smile of a neighbor is more noticeable and appreciated. Death changes things – most things for the worse – but some things, well, some things are only noticed in death. And those things often help us to recover from the loss. The ordinary grace of God shines brightest in the darkest of nights. What we rage at him for at midnight is what we love about him at dawn. And all the while he’s there with us.
Death changes things, and the thing it changes most is us. We aren’t the same. Something has been lost. But, open to God, something more can be gained. One day we too will leave and things will change. It’s a good thing, then, that we have a God who, when we can’t change the reality of death, changed death for us. He reversed the curse and reordered the universe. Death changes things, but not nearly as much as life.