‘Death is nothing at all’. These are the opening words of a poem written in the early 20th century by Henry Scott Holland a canon of St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s a poem that is sometimes requested for funeral services. However I know from my own experience of bereavement and from being alongside those who face death and those whose loved ones have died, that this statement is simply not true. Death is always significant and it challenges us to face things we would rather avoid. To be fair to Scott Holland, this was just one perspective on death that he offered, and his poem has been taken out of its context, but it’s interesting that it has become so popular today as a comfort to those who have been bereaved.
As Scott Holland writes about a person who has died having ‘slipped away into the next room’, he had in mind the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel, ‘In my Father’s house there are many rooms and I go ahead to prepare a place for you.’ Christians believe that through Jesus we can be in ‘God’s house’, or in other words in His presence and at one with Him. And we can experience something of being in God’s house here and now in this life. Our death is movement from our earthly existence, where we have only glimpses of God, into the ‘next room’ of complete oneness with God.
In these days after Easter it is worth remembering that our life with God is possible because of what Jesus did for us. His life, death and rising to new life opened the door into the love and goodness, peace and joy, wisdom, truth and justice... into all that is God. Through Jesus we see what God is like and we also see the potential for every human being to reflect the image of God. Death cannot destroy that image. Death is not ‘nothing’, but it is not the end. As we seek to live as Jesus lived we offer that hope to others.
With prayers for many blessings in this Easter season