I was recently introduced (in the reading on the internet sense) to a young lady named Eva Markvoort. She was a beautiful young woman, days away from 26 years old, who had been fighting Cystic Fibrosis for quite some time. She received a double lung transplant a while back, but I am very sad to say she suffered chronic rejection and lost the battle with Cystic Fibrosis just a few days ago.
In many ways, the world was watching. Her online journal,Â 65 Red Roses had fans around the world, following her battle, constantly commenting with encouragement and prayers. She shared her experience with photos and videos, paragraphs and poetry — she wrote beautifully, and she dared to hope, and at the same time to tell the truth about the challenges of her life, right to the end. She posted a goodbye video in mid-February which at present has 2,398 comments. I highly recommend taking the time to view it, to think about what it might be like to be 25 years old and saying goodbye to the world. She speaks more about the importance of love than anything else. An award-winning documentary called 65 Red Roses tells the story of her battle with Cystic Fibrosis. Here’s a photo of Eva:
I think what makes Evaâ€™s death so difficult to swallow for so many people is that she was really beautiful, really talented, and really young. And no one likes to see someone young and beautiful pass away. When people who are older and have lived a full life pass away, we feel better about that. It settles easier in our hearts and minds to say goodbye to someone when they live what we consider a full life. We want to live a full life ourselves and die at a good old age. And itâ€™s not nice to be reminded that that might not happen.
We look at things like what happened in Haiti, and what happened to Eva, and we turn to God and think … Whatâ€™s happening? Why? I donâ€™t get it.
I read a verse in Ecclesiastes not too long ago that says â€œIt is better to go to a house of mourning than a house of feasting. For that is the end of all men, And the living will take it to heart.â€ My translation: It is better to go to a funeral than a party. If youâ€™re still alive, itâ€™s a good idea to give this some thought.
Now logically, most of us would think … ugh, what? Since when is a funeral better than a party?
Though heart-wrenching, and tragic, these tragedies arenâ€™t anything new. Some tragic things happened in Jesusâ€™ day. Luke 13 mentions that â€œPilate had mingled the blood of some Galileans with their sacrificesâ€ and some folks questioned Jesus about it. Clearly those Galileansâ€™ lives came to an untimely end. My guess is the people asked Jesus if that was some sort of judgement on them, or what the deal was.
He responded: â€œDo you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.â€ He went on to mention another recent tragedy to further His point. Apparently a tower had fallen on about 18 people in Siloam and they were killed. Jesus says, â€œOr those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.â€
Basically, these people have come to Jesus for an explanation of human suffering, or at least to gain understanding of why these particular deaths happened. But instead of giving an explantion, Jesus gives them a warning. Youâ€™re going to die, too. And unless you repent and find new life in me, it will be just as tragic and untimely.
Francis Chan talked about some of this in a sermon a couple weeks ago, (we listen to his churchâ€™s podcast sometimes) and he gave the illustration of one of his daughters, who was becoming a bit of a tattle-tail. Her teacher told her to â€œWorry about herselfâ€ and that wasnâ€™t really the answer she wanted.
In a way, when these tragedies are happening, Jesus is saying â€œI am not going to explain to you the ins and outs of human suffering. I am God and if I donâ€™t want to, I donâ€™t have to. What I do want to tell you, repeatedly, is that you need to worry about yourself. These tragedies happened in an instant. In a moment you could be gone. You need to repent and give your life to me.â€
So why is a funeral better than a feast?
I think itâ€™s because we need to be reminded that weâ€™re human. Weâ€™re not going to live forever. If you want to make your life count, you need to start thinking about how youâ€™re living. (And for the sake of others like Eva, consider becoming an organ donor.) Â If you knew you only had a few years left on this earth, what would you change? Might you be a little bolder in your faith? Might you decide your time was more important than the money youâ€™re making at work? Might you finally decide to â€œget right with God?” Might you decide to risk more, and love more, regardless of the consequences?
Remembering the first Good Friday, I wonder if some people felt about Jesus’ death the way many people do about Eva’s. This person who seemed to have a world of potential came to an end before what the rest of us perceived as their time. How do we interpret and receive this?
In her good-bye video, Eva used the word love more than any other. Before Jesus left, He constantly spoke about love. Love your neighbour. Love one another. The world will know you’re Mine because of your love for one another. There’s a theme running through these narratives, bright red, outstanding, and different from what the world expects.
The Sermon in a Nutshell: Donâ€™t take it for granted that youâ€™ll make it to the ripe old age of 85 or 90. Tragedy falls on the old and the young, the poor and the rich, the beautiful and the unlovely alike. You know you have one life to live. You donâ€™t know how long you have to live it. So make today count. You arenâ€™t promised tomorrow. Remember that the greatest feats are achieved through the untamable, incredible power of love.
Goodbye, Eva Markvoort. If we take anything away from your story, I hope we take away a fresh perspective on the brevity of life, and the importance of love.