Ray’s aunt lived on the other side of the bay in Mobile. She was elderly, not in the greatest of health, and he hadn’t heard from her in a few days (and neither had her friends). Looking back on it, I suppose he must have had a pretty strong hunch that something was wrong because he asked another person (who in turn asked me) to come along. You don’t do that if you expect to find your aunt sitting in her rocking chair with the television up so loud she can’t hear the phone.
It was the middle of summer on the Gulf Coast and as you might expect, it was absolutely sweltering outside. Ray’s aunt lived in one of those older houses with a front porch that spanned the length of it and went back to the time when people used to actually sit on their porches late in the day because it became cooler out there than inside the house. Ray rapped on the door calling out “Aunt Eileen” several times in a voice loud enough for the neighbors to hear. When he finally stopped, the contrast between the silence that followed and the noise that preceded it was stark. We looked around the house for a way to get inside and finally found a couple of five gallon buckets and an unlocked window in the kitchen. Ray went into his aunt’s bedroom and found her in bed but no longer part of this world.
He called an ambulance and while we waited I went out on that big front porch. Over in one corner there was a dried out, sun-bleached collection of artificial flowers that had obviously been hanging there a long time. What caught my attention was a tag attached to the arrangement. I went over there and in clear black print it said: “Guaranteed not to fade.”
I’d like to think that tag was more than just a marketing idea—that when they put it on they had the greatest of confidence in their product. Whatever process had been employed in producing the flowers was probably the latest, greatest technology and they were convinced that these flowers were going to look the same in seven years as they did after seven days.
It just didn’t happen.
No real shame in that—it’s never worked out that way. Everything, sooner or later, gets old, decays, breaks down, and doesn’t work in the way it once did. Older people, like Aunt Eileen, who at one time was a baby, then a child, and then a young lady; fill out their years until their time is no more. It is the same with us; if you sit through enough funerals, pretty soon you’ll find yourself laying down at one.
All of this would be absolutely disheartening—if it were the last word on the subject. Good useful lives would end in a flicker and be sustained only by memory. Christ tasted death for us and rose from the grave so that in Him we might know life—everlasting! He told Martha—well, you know what He told Martha (and if you don’t you need to read it for yourself in John 11:25-26).
Something happened early one Sunday morning in a garden outside Jerusalem. Death was dealt a fatal blow by the One who makes all things new. That’s guaranteed not to fade.