As I write, Sir Alex Ferguson, the uniquely-successful former manager of Manchester United is reportedly fighting for his life.
A brain haemorrhage last Saturday morning was followed by emergency brain surgery.
The procedure went well, but he faces weeks of recuperation. Even this fervent Manchester City fan joins with everyone else in wishing ‘Fergie’ a complete recovery.
Recent months have seen many high-profile figures depart this life, ranging from David Bowie to Ken Dodd. All the great and the good in the worlds of music and entertainment have clamoured to add their tributes and to attend the funerals. One person missing from such a group is the television personality Simon Cowell, maker and breaker of many a budding career. In an interview with Piers Morgan, Cowell confessed that he never attends funerals for the simple reason that it reminds him too harshly of the reality of death. Perhaps we should call him Simon “Ostrich” Cowell, for such an attitude reveals the ultimate ‘head in the sand’ approach to life.
The great poet John Donne spoke of the ‘democracy of death’ for it affects everyone. ‘Dust you are and to dust you will return’(Genesis 3;19). Our Irish poet, W.B. Yeats wrote about the ‘discourtesy of death’, for it often barges in when we least expect it, bringing grief and desolation. One of Shakespeare’s characters, mourning the death of a loved one, protested, ‘Why should a horse, a dog, a rat have life and thou no breath at all?’
The New Testament declares that death is a defeated enemy. The victory of Christ on Easter morning, when God raised him from the dead, is the basis of our hope in the life eternal. The God who rescued us at such supreme cost in the sacrifice of Christ, will surely not allow us to be snatched from him in death.
The apostle Paul spoke confidently when he wrote; ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. ‘Where, O death, is your sting? Where, O grave, is your victory...Thanks be to God! He gave us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’(1 Corinthians 15; 54-47).
Down the ages Christians have died, whether peacefully in their beds, or facing cruel martyrdom, knowing that death meant going to be with Christ.
There are few better examples of Christian certainty in the face of death than the courage of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who so valiantly opposed Nazism. Led out to face his executioners, he said, ‘This is the end. For me, the beginning of life.’ How much would Simon Cowell give to possess that confidence?