Jokes and Death (and a few songs)

April 1 is known internationally as a day for practical jokes.  (Trust me, students in China get pretty into it.)  But when I think of April 1, I'm more likely to think of something else -- a call that came eight years ago with the news that "Pappy" Oscar, a man from our church who had adopted us as grandchildren, had died.

He had been diagnosed with cancer only a month earlier.

And every year I'm a little surprised about how much I still miss him.  But I do miss him; I miss a lot of things about him.

I miss how he prayed.  He is one of the few (only?) people I've ever known who used King James English in his prayers without it sounding stilted.

I miss his love.  I remember him teasing me about boys and saying he'd better be one of the first to know when I got engaged.  I miss his hugs, even though my hair somehow always got tangled in his glasses.

I miss his goofiness.  He was incredibly willing to play along with whatever us kids were doing.  Or to instigate mischief if he thought that we weren't creating enough.  Somewhere at home we have pictures of him with a beanie baby duck perched on his head.  We "kidnapped" him and Grandma Millie for Ib's pirate birthday party.  He convinced Abbie that "meringue" was pronounced mher-in-goo.  And he was quick to laugh at himself.

In the month between when the call came that he had cancer and when call came saying that he died, there were a lot of emotions.  I remember a lot of the music that I was listening to around then -- Derek Webb's i see things upside down album, Nichole Nordeman's Woven and Spun album, Casting Crown's Praise You in the Storm, and Natalie Grant's song Held.  Probably because I was listening to these songs over and over and over, they're all still definitely connected with the emotions and thoughts from that time in my life.

Especially Held.

Losing Oscar so quickly hurt in ways that still ache today.  But getting to be a part of him dying in faith was a beautiful thing.

And so, when I think about the collision of things that happen on April 1, I think it is very appropriate.  Because in the end, the joke is on death.  Christ beat it with the ultimate irony -- trampling over death by death.  Or, as John Mark McMillan put it:

On Friday a thief
On Sunday a King
Laid down in grief
But awoke holding keys
Of hell on that day
The Firstborn of the slain
The Man Jesus Christ
Laid Death in his grave.


  1. "Because in the end, the joke is on death."
    Did April Fool's Day just reach cosmic proportions?

    Reminds me of Philippians 1:21. To live is Christ, and to die is gain!


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