The reality of death and the brevity of life

when faced with death, some of things we think are significant became less important

Issue 108

I once told a friend, “I hate cancer”. Because I have seen what it did to my mum. And it took her away. She was 57 years old. 

Before that, I haven’t tasted the reality of death and the brevity of life.

Before that too, like many others, I didn’t think deeper about death and life. 

But life and its lessons, always something to learn…

A few years later, I was presented with another cancer situation when the doctor shook his head in disappointment and said to my husband, ‘Yes, it’s confirmed.’

My husband was diagnosed with stage three cancer in 2017—Nodal marginal zone lymphoma (NMZL). 

Again. The reality of death and the brevity of life became urgent.

The things we want to do suddenly seemed to have a shorter runway. 

Some of the things we think are significant became less important.

For me and my husband—having an eternal hope, of life after death—removed the sting of finality. It removed the hopelessness of death is the end.

However, it doesn’t remove the struggle, nor the fear of loss.

I still have the fear of losing my husband. Even if I know—I’ll see him again in heaven if he goes before me. The blow is softened, but a blow is still a blow. An under-the-belly punch.

As long as I’m living, I need to be reassured at times when my faith is weak, to remember that through the resurrection of Christ, we have the hope of eternal life. That death—the scariest thing on earth no longer has the final say. 

Till we are called Home, we’ll go on living, with clarity on how we want to spend our remaining time on earth. 

It can be summed up in this poem which came into my heart—during the most difficult period of my life.

Remember the little, ordinary things. Often, it’s the ordinary things that mean the most.


📘 I read this amazing story of Susan Spencer-Wendel, who when diagnosed with ALS, decided to leave the best memories for her family. She wrote the book “Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy” about her year of living with joy. I still cry when I think about her story.

🔗 Tim Keller, a Presbyterian pastor who spent a lifetime counselling others going through loss and facing death, asked himself [turning 70, now diagnosed with pancreatic cancer ]—would he be able to take his own advice? He wrote about this in a recent article from The Atlantic.


All external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. - Steve Jobs

“All his life has he looked away to the future, the horizon. Never his mind on where he was.” - Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

I’ll leave you with this prayer

Who can tell what a day might bring

Therefore, gracious God

Cause me to live every day as if it were to be my last

For I know not but that may be such

Cause me to live now

As I shall wish I had done

When I come to die.

(I couldn’t find the source for this prayer. I think it’s from Thomas a Kempis?)

👉🏼 HopeMail will be shifting to 1st and 3rd Fridays. See you in my next issue on April 2nd (Friday).

By the way, I wrote about the struggle of being caught up with our idea of success and remembering the purpose of our work in my previous issue.

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