When I’m crossing the finish line of a running race,
That feeling is quite marvellous,
It’s one of utter relief.
It’s over, I can rest,
I can go back to pizza and the sofa
And an endless episodes of Friends and ER.
And when I finish the book that I’ve been reading
I have a feeling of enlightenment
That I wear proudly like a prom dress,
I can show it off in public,
The colourful things that I now know,
And the authors that I’ve read.
The closing of the book is the beginning of my fun.
But what can I say of what is certainly coming,
That fearful black entity that will swallow us all.
Yes, death is inevitable,
We can’t run away and we can’t close the book.
But is it an end like the end of a race or a classical work?
Or is it the beginning of something mistook?
The line is in sight and we’re heading that way,
But why all this talk about how to keep it at bay?
I’m thinking that maybe we should run at full speed,
Collecting our medal and the praise of our friends.
And we deserve it so much,
For surviving this world we live in today.
No, I don’t think that death is the end,
I do not think it is evil and dark.
But rather a blanket that’s placed round the shoulders
Of the tired distance runner who has battled it out.
It’s a hug from the coach and a medal in hand.
I agree that this world sees the pages slammed shut,
But only to wake in the bookshop of dreams
Where there is so much to read
That the fear and the pain are no longer things
On which your imagination can feed.
So, death terrifies me. I am a control freak and not knowing how or when or what even happens is something that makes me sweat. I mean, we all think that we are going to die as old people and our hearts just give up while we are sleeping. But the truth is that it’s probably not going to be a pleasant as that.
And then there’s the big question that is ‘where do we go?’ I’m a Christian, but even the Bible doesn’t tell me exactly what is going to happen. Do I go to a waiting room where they decide if I’ve made the grade to get into Heaven? Or do we go into some kind of hyper sleep until the second coming? There are so many questions still left open that I need the answer to. And I worry that if I think about it too much then my head will go pop.
That’s why I like to think that it’s not the end. Whenever I finish a race, I know that there are nice things to look forward to at the end. And I know that there are other races that I can enter to have another go at bettering my time. It is a similar experience when reading a book. There are times when I fall so in love with the characters that I can’t bear for it to end. But when the book is finished I can sit and think about it in my own head or discuss it with friends. I can read other work by the same author or see if the book has been made into a movie. Life won’t end as soon as that book is finished because the characters live on, and more importantly, I live on.
So, if death also terrifies you, try to think of it as a little break in the proceedings. It’ll be a time for you to have a look back at your ‘best bits’ and then prepare for whatever lies ahead in the great unknown. And if you have recently lost someone, it might be comforting to think that they have just finished this race, but they’re still out there running another one and waiting for you when it’s your turn to join them.