It is rare for me to run across an interview that is powerful enough to raise a lump in my throat, but today I’ve found one. William Stuntz is a Professor at Harvard Law School and a Christian who has lived for the last decade with excruciating pain, and was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and is not expected to live through 2010. Timothy Dalrymple interviewed him in order to get his reflections on suffering and death, and the result is very powerful, especially to those who have lost a loved one to cancer.
Here, Dalrymple asks Stuntz if he has any favorite quotations or scriptures when it comes to death. Stuntz’s response:
Yes, a passage in the fourteenth chapter of Job. The passage as a whole is not hopeful. Job is uncertain what will happen to him when he dies. In the end, he says that he will return to dust and there will be nothing after death.
In the midst of the passage, however, before he turns to despair, he has a moment of hope. It’s a brief moment, just a couple of verses in the midst of an extended passage. Yet he says, “You will call and I will answer. You will long for the creature your hands have made” (Job 14:15).
I find those lines very powerful. The concept that God longs for the likes of me is so unspeakably sweet. I almost cannot bear to say them aloud. They are achingly sweet for me to hear.
There are many passages I love, but that one in particular has grabbed hold of me. Job’s hope, it turns out, is more realistic than his despair.
I have wondered, from time to time, what it must be like to face death. If I live long enough to die a natural death and know that it is coming, how will I cope? I like to think that I will be courageous in the face of death, much like my grandmother and my father, but death is so foreign to all that I know and understand. I have faith in God and believe that He did not create me to simply be annihilated after death, and yet there are times when the idea of life after death seems too strange to contemplate. Will I overcome those doubts? Will those doubts even appear? Will I be able to let go, or will I cling to life desperately? I don’t know, to be honest. I just don’t know. I pray that I will have years yet to build the maturity that I feel I need to face the end in a way that brings comfort to my family, which is really what I want. At the very least, Mr. Stuntz has given us a wonderful insight into a time of life that we all will face, and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to absorb it.