January 5, 2020

We’re into a brand new year, and people who work are getting ready to get their tax forms so that they can pay their taxes by the deadline.  Taxes are a necessity in any modern society, but they can make taxpayers so angry sometimes.

There’s a joke about there only being two things certain in life–death and taxes.  The punchline to that joke is – ”Yes, but death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets!”

I don’t know when taxes started.  I guess soon after humans started gathering together in communities and towns.  The Bible mentions taxes. Jesus even said, “Give to Caeser (the government) the things that are Caeser’s…..”

I could talk at length about the unpleasant certainty of taxes, but I won’t.  I want to go to the other topic mentioned in my title–death.  Another unpleasant certainty.

Nature has shown us that every living thing will eventually die:  people, animals, plants.  Even the giant redwoods in California, some 2000 years old, will eventually die.

The Bible is full of places telling us about the brevity of life.  As a pastor, I have been around a lot of death.  I have no idea how many funerals I have officiated.  Many.

Usually, the older people become, the more they think about death.  There are so many reminders all around us. Last night, for example, I spent a lot of time thinking about death.  You’ll probably think it’s silly when I tell you why I started thinking about death last night while  I was really needing to be sleeping.  It was my cats.  Yes, my cats.  We have two cats and two dogs who all sleep in bed with us.  Usually they all get either between us, or at the foot of the bed, and we don’t have much problem with them bothering us.

But last night, both cats, Angel and Smokey, wanted to sleep on top of me. They do that often to Sandra or me, but not both of them at one time!  I thought about moving them off my stomach and chest so I could sleep. But I got to thinking about how much they enjoyed being close to us, and  showing us how much they love us. And I also thought, their being 19 years old, they don’t have much time left in life.  So why stop them from having a few of their life’s pleasures?

Thinking about my cat’s death, I thought about how children usually encounter their first experiences with death.  As a little boy, I had a little dog named Cocoa.  I don’t remember whether Cocoa was male or female.  All I remember is that Cocoa died.  I was so sad.  Mother and Daddy tried to comfort me, but I just didn’t understand why Cocoa had to die.

When I pastored at Malvern, Arkansas,  there was a little boy in our church named John.  He was in kindergarten when this happened.  One afternoon when he got in from school, he called me on the telephone.  He said, “Brother Plumley, when I got in from kindergarten awhile ago, I found my cat had died.  My mother and I are going to go dig a grave for him.  Will you come to our house after awhile and do his funeral?” I said, “I am so sorry about your cat.  Of course I’ll come do his funeral.  I’ll be there as soon as I can.” It wasn’t the first funeral, or last, that I’ve done for pets.  I did several for our families’ pets when they died.

So, I put on a suit and necktie and went to John’s house.  The cat was already laid out in the grave, but not covered up.  John wanted me to see his cat before covering the grave. I did the best cat funeral I knew how to do.  We prayed and thanked God for the life He had given John’s cat, and all the joy it had brought to him.

After the funeral John was crying and asked me, “Why did God let my cat die?” I said, “John, let’s go in the house and sit down and I’ll try to answer that question for you.”  We went inside and sat at the table while John’s mother got us some milk and cookies.  I spent about 30 minutes explaining death to John in terms that a five year old boy could understand.   He seemed to be satisfied with my answer to his question.

Probably about twenty years later, I got a phone call from John’s mother. She told me her husband, John’s daddy, had been killled in a truck wreck, and asked would I do his funeral.  I said, “Of course I will.  It would be an honor.”

After the funeral, John came over to talk to me.  He was all grown up and was in The National Guard.  John hugged me while crying and said, “Brother Plumley, I remember like yesterday you telling me all about death when you did my cat’s funeral. That talk about death way back then has helped me accept my Daddy’s death in that truck wreck.  I know I’ll see Daddy in heaven, and my cat, too.”

Death is indeed a certainty. But we should not be afraid to die.  We need to focus on living a God-pleasing life, and death will be okay when the time comes.

A good friend gifted me with a wonderful book last spring.  It is titled THE ART OF LOVING GOD, by St. Francis de Sales.  It’s actually about living AND dying.  I highly recommend your reading it.  It’s very encouraging and informative.

The best antidote for the fear of death is to live for God the way He wants you to.

God Bless You,
Spencer Plumley