James 4: 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
I recently read the book, “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi. The book has only 2 chapters. The first chapter is about the author’s life before he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, and the second chapter is about how the author dealt with his terminal illness and his impending death.
What struck me about this book was that the two chapters represent two distinct viewpoints I can have towards my life on this earth – one with a future and one without. If I had a terminal illness that was robing me of my future, I would have a heightened sense of urgency that I need to think about my eternal destiny. The paradox is that whether we are young and healthy or dying of an illness, all humans really all have the same diagnosis; it is just more obvious to the one who is dying.
When Paul Kalanithi, the author of the book, received his diagnosis, he was 36 years old, had spent 10 years training as a neurosurgeon and reached the pinnacle of his residency. He was on the verge of being rewarded after all those years of planning, hard work and delayed gratification. But instead of finally becoming a doctor to many patients he became the patent to many doctors.
I was very moved by this book because it was written by a dying man who had gained extraordinary abilities as a neurosurgeon to save others from death; yet, the doctors who treated him were not able to do the same for him. Paul died March 2015 while working on the book so his words were real time rather than reflective of something that happened in the past. I’m grateful for his bravery to write such intimate details about his last year of life so that others could reflect on the life they have been given. However, when I turned the last page of the book I realized that Paul only spoke of his experience of dying as it relates to his time on earth. Heaven was not mentioned. This made me very sad. The thought of dying without the hope of heaven and seeing God face to face would be so final and so empty. This made me want to pursue heaven even more.
What perspective do you have of your future here on earth and in heaven?