Heaven's gate photo by Moyan Brenn/Flickr

What lies beyond aging


By Mark Azzara

Dear Friend,

I was in my ophthalmologist’s office recently, waiting for an exam to explain why it felt like someone was sticking a needle in my left eye every time I closed it.

That’s where I saw a friend and said hello. She smiled and laughed. “I hate this aging crap,” she said.

We both laughed. And so did another woman, with white hair, who sat near us. “That sounds familiar,” she said with a smile.

All three of us are at different stages of the aging process. And so are you. That may not sound pleasant but it’s true. And as we continue to age things will get even more interesting.

As I thought about that little exchange I realized anew that I am slowly being prepared for what comes next: Death. That probably doesn’t sound even vaguely pleasant to you but it’s also the truth.

I think more often about death these days than I once did. There was a time when it was such a scary thought that I would fill my mind with any thought as long as it drove thoughts of death away.

But now things are different. That’s another aspect of aging that you have to experience in order to understand. The closer death gets the more real it becomes. The more unavoidable. But if you believe in Jesus Christ it’s also something that’s not as scary as in your youth.

It may sound strange to read this but I’m kind of curious what kind of life lies beyond death. Yes, I know there are lots of people who say there is nothing beyond the life we now live. You die and that’s it. You’re dead. End of story.

But I do believe there is something beyond physical death. This belief is not the product of indoctrination but of a combination of rational thought, lived experience and faith. And as a result I am getting genuinely curious about the kind of life that awaits me.

I am not terrified about going to hell, which, unfortunately, is something that some “pastors” still try to instill in their congregants. I am trying my best to surrender my will and life to God so that he can accomplish the changes in me that I need to undergo in order to be more loving in this life and also so that I am prepared to be vastly more loved in the next life than I ever will be in this one.

I wonder what it will be like to be loved like that? I had one brief experience of it while on a retreat. It lasted less than 15 minutes but the experience was powerful enough to convince me that such love exists and that it awaits me.

I wish there were some way to convey that experience to you – some way to get you to feel what I felt, something that went deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced in this life. It was so deep it was beyond imagining, and now is beyond being explained. It was beyond words, in other words.

That was the most “real” experience of my life, the experience above all others that I cling to, the experience that gives me not just hope but assurance of what lies ahead. I remember thinking at the time, “So this is what heaven is like.”

While I enjoy this life and all that it may still hold in store for me, despite the occasional aches and pains of old age, please pardon me if I look forward to the kind of love that no one on this Earth could ever give me. The love that will last forever.

All God’s blessings, Mark

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