He is risen. This is the hardest for me to believe. I can read the gospels over and over. I can recite the creeds. I believe that what seems impossible can be possible but still, I am skeptical. I believe there is a time after death of the body that is an in-between state. I actually believe this state begins before death of the body. Having been present at the ends of many lives of those ready to pass on, I have seen the in-between state. They can still hear us…but they can also hear (and maybe see) something more.
Perhaps this is why we sit with the dying…to be with them on this side while they move to the next…to the other side. It isn’t easy to sit with the dying. They sound terrible with rattling lungs, full of fluid that will never be removed. Then comes the time closer to the end where each breath may be the last. A mixture of relief and disappointment when the next gasp comes. We want them to stay and we want to let them go. It isn’t easy. It isn’t meant to be easy. Birth isn’t easy. Death isn’t easy. That being said, life isn’t easy.
I have seen the living, the dying and the dead. There is a distinct difference to each. The living are clearly alive. The dead are gone. They don’t just look still…they look GONE. DEPARTED. The alive are very clearly HERE. The dying? They look somewhere in-between. They respond to voice and touch, they can still hear us. They must also see and hear something more, something beyond that beckons them. I like to think that it is He Who Has Risen or the Angel of Death beckoning the dying to join him…to go back to God.
Over the years I have thought many times of the Angel of Death. Angels, rather, there must be so many of them. I have seen people in misery recovering from a major stroke or some other medical catastrophe in which modern medicine was able to intervene. I have seen people upset with being alive in this new miserable state. I have seen within weeks or months this same person passing away from some other ailment. Then, I have thought: the Angel of Death has come back for you. This is a comforting thought, that even if death is cheated by modern medicine, God doesn’t forget about you, God will send the Messenger back to get you. The Angel of Death will come back for you.