Friday, April 06, 2012


Do you remember the last time someone sat calmly with you and discussed dying which is as much a fact of life as is living? Was it a life insurance agent selling a policy who talked with you about when statistically your family was projected to receive the benefit? Or perhaps it was as you were awaiting the memorial service for a friend or family member which seems to be happening with a bit more regularity these days for Mary and me. 

Then there is the ever present statements from the pulpits of our churches that frequency remind us that it is appointed once to die, but the emphasis is more on the potential for terror afterward so much so the average person tends to remove it from their thought processes as quickly as possible after the conclusion of the service. 

I've had an occasion or two where the reality of death was very close and there seemed to be the possibility of it being the next item on my personal agenda. The first time was as I lay on an operating table in 1985 and heard the doctor who was doing an angioplasty on me say to his assistant and I quote..."Oh my god, we've got a bubble in there." He meant there was an air bubble in the artery close to my heart and I had done some reading about the dangers of just such an event. I remember that precise moment and my precise thought that at any moment now I could be literally in the presence of the Lord. I have to tell you with no exaggeration whatsoever that I laughed. The doctor said, "Mr. Burleson are you alright? I answered him, "Better than you can know Doc." 

The second time was in 2005 when I suffered a stroke on the second day of a twelve day motorcycle trip to the Blueridge Parkway and I had similar thoughts that will have to be told another time.

Old timers used to say that a person is not ready to live until they are ready to die. I do think that being confronted with death does often tend to nudge a person toward measuring life quite differently after that experience. It may even be seen as something of a gift from that point on. Life from the beginning is that, of course, but sometimes for us to focus in on it's true giftedness a moment has to come where the loss of that gift is a strong possibility.

My moments when, if death wasn't at the door, it was sure on the porch, allowed me to grasp anew the true gift of life I'm sure. But what was REALLY interesting was that the fear of dying was totally foreign to me in that moment.

Why talk about this today? Have I begun to feel my age? Has some physical problem been revealed? Is there some announcement I wish to make? None of the above.

Good Friday has caused me to think of how the death of our lord was not only on the porch but inside the door for Him and was now very, very real. It wasn't as if were any surprise to Him. He had, after all, set His face as a flint toward this moment since a child of twelve leaving the Temple. He was born to die. 

We are all that of course, the difference being He had no reason to other than His incredible love for us and desire to accomplish His Father's plan for our redemption. With that as His goal and purpose He died. 

But Sunday came. We call it the first day of the week. Some call it Easter Sunday. I call it my removal of the "fear of dying" day. Death being "on the porch" or "in the door," for me makes little difference. Easter Sunday has happened. And it's ramifications for all of us who know Him now include the fact that we will never truly "die" maybe... we can truly "live."

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


"But what was REALLY interesting was that the fear of dying was totally foreign to me in that moment."

Three months ago, just prior to entering the operating theatre, the heart surgeon asked me,"Are you afraid of dying?"

During my lifetime I had faced the death of another so many times as I sat at a bedside and sought to show fearful folk to the Way the Truth and the Light, the Door to the place where such fear is banished. Officiating at many funeral services,I saw the many fears of death raised by those who were bereaved, but I had never seriously asked myself that question.

I didn't have to think about the doctors question. My answer was simple,revealing that I had taken for granted the great gift I shared,"Not at all."

Not taken for granted anymore. What an amazingly great gift we have been given.

Thank you Paul! Your application to Easter is so good!

If only the church could major on the centrality of Christ and what He has accomplished for His own, instead of making smoke screens about their self important, man made distinctives!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I'm not sure but what a good half of my motivation for writing my blog is the privilege of getting to hear your always profound and genuinely insightful comments.

Have a great Easter Sunday. [You and I both know that's really every Sunday don't we!] ;)

Bob Cleveland said...

Wonderful post; it speaks to me.

I don't know if you've ever heard my salvation testimony, but I was saved when as an 8 or 9 year old kid who'd just told his dad he was afraid of dying, Dad said "Don't you remember what they taught you in Bible School .. that if you believe in Jesus, when you die, you go to heaven". I cannot adequately describe the instantaneous and very real joy, relief, etc that flooded my completely.

That reality is so burned into me that, when I'm lying in a hospital bed in the middle of the night, awaiting surgery of some sort .. and that old dark feeling of dying floods in, all I have to do is recall that moment when I was a kid, and all is instantly well again.

That's why this day, courtesy of which we can have such assurance, is so special to me. Thanks for once again awakening all of that in my consciousness so it can flood my soul again.

Another timely security word

Steve Miller said...

Thank you Paul for a blessed reminder of the victory proclaimed and validated because of Easter. I was saved on Easter as a young boy in Tulsa and reading Bob Cleveland above brings a smile. I have had to on occasion bring a death notice to those who served under my command. Because of Easter, Christ has put death on notice: where is your sting and where is your victory? Thanks be to Jesus for we live and go in victory. Thanks Paul. Happy Easter


Paul Burleson said...


You are living proof of the truth both in Wade's blog post about childhood conversions and this post about the thought of death. Besides are just a blessings to anyone who EVER reads ANY comment you make on ANY subject. Thanks.


"Death on notice" indeed.

On the day of our resurrection from the dead that notice will be nailed to the door with the shout of the voice of the Archangel___who I believe will shout a command to release us from the power of the authority of the god of this world [speculation] because he did just that over the body of Moses so Moses could appear with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration___and death is done for.

Man did you get me started. LOL Thanks for a great comment.

Rex Ray said...

I’ve really enjoyed the comments.

About 20 years ago in a dressing room, I told a rival softball player, “I wish I was in as great a shape as you.”

He opened his shirt and showed me a scar from a heart operation and said, “I take it one day at a time.”

I regret NOT saying, ‘Yes, that’s all we have…do you know Jesus?’ because ten minutes later he was dead.

Sitting in a dugout, his last words were, “I’m dizzy” and he left this world not knowing he was leaving.

You’ve heard ‘an acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree’. I fell from a pear tree and broke my pelvis 50 feet from where my dad broke his when a tractor turned over when we were the same age of 72.

My biggest worry was that horses were going to step on me as they were trying to eat a sack of pears under me that had cracked five ribs. During the 20 minute ride to a hospital, I couldn’t understand why the ambulance guy kept saying, “Hang on!” (My spleen had ruptured and I was running out of blood.) Later, the Dr. said, “An hour later and you’d been pushing up daises.” It was a good thing I’d refused to take blood thinner with the pace-maker I had for atrial-fib.

That was a bad year as my regular doctor said if I’d been an average person I’d died three times. Life’s been a little more precious in these following eight years. Hey! I’ve met the Burlesons. :)

On this Easter Morning, I wish we still had the custom of early Christians instead of saying ‘Hello’, the greeting was, “He is risen!” and the reply: “He has indeed!”

Paul Burleson said...


Great comment.

I agree with the wish that the early Christian greeting was still around. They had a LOT on the ball and we may have dropped that ball in many ways.

Gave a great Easter Sunday.

Rex Ray said...

I might add when I was 23, I woke up to hear a doctor tell me I had a “close call”. I spent the next 3 months of my senior year of college in its hospital. I made better grades as I had plenty of time to study since I’d been working a 40/week.

BTW, never go to sleep on a motorcycle with a bailing wire operating the carburetor (gas grip had fallen off), and holding the headlight like a flashlight.

I grew up hearing lectures from my dad on ‘never say you CAN’T’. While teaching school in Alaska, my dad promised my wife he would have me back from my usual Saturday bear hunt before dark. Midnight was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face and we didn’t have a flashlight. It was near freezing and we were following a bear trail by ‘feeling’ with our feet and hoping we weren’t lost. I had two rifles strapped on my back and wearing hip-boots when I stepped in water that had no ‘bottom’. I blindly reached to the sides and found grass, but my head was under water because my dad’s stomach was on top of me. His feet were on the bank and he was fighting water to keep his head up. With all my strength I got my head up long enough to yell, “Get off me!” Before my strength gave out and going under, I heard, “I CAN’T”. That happened over and over. (The Three Stooges would have been proud.) My dad had a knee ‘disability from World War II, and was using a shotgun as a crutch and holding my shoulder when we hit the water. Needles to say that was OUR last hunt.