ALMOST EVERYONE IN THIS WORLD HAS ENCOUNTERED THAT GREATEST OF ?foes: death. Perhaps it’s the loss of a precious family member or friend. Or—for those who are young—it might be the loss of a single pet goldfish. But in every case they have seen that dark hand reach in and take a life that was precious to them.
I’ve seen people die. I’ve lost family members. And I’ve also lost many animals, because my family has always had many creatures in our care. Just recently, my beloved cat KitKat died. She had been by my side for 14 years. She went through my teenage years with me. She sat beside me while I studied. She slept beside me every night. If I were troubled or depressed or sad, she had a habit of extending one small white paw and laying it on my hand while looking up at me as if to say, “I can’t do anything, but I’m here.” Now she’s gone. Some may say “she’s just an animal,” but to me she was a close friend. I loved her. Her absence hurts.
When I first got the news that KitKat’s disease was terminal, I became very depressed, but then God spoke to me through an experience with a green caterpillar. I found it beneath our mountain ash tree. It was covered in ants. I felt sorry for the creature as I saw it thrashing about, so I picked it up, gently shook off its attackers, took it into the house, and put it into a jar. I didn’t expect the caterpillar to survive because of all its many ant bites, but it did. It crawled about the jar, ate leaves, and one day made a cocoon. Would it make it through the winter? I wondered.
Spring arrived and every day I checked to see whether the caterpillar had hatched. Every day I was disappointed. It was about that time that I received the bad news about my precious cat, and because of my discouragement and sadness I wasn’t very optimistic about the caterpillar. I suspected it had been too weak and had died inside the cocoon. But I was wrong. It survived. And what emerged from the cocoon was a surprise to me. I was expecting a big moth, but instead it was a glorious, perfect tiger swallowtail butterfly.
I felt God was using this experience to speak to me. It was as if He were saying, “Death is not forever. I love you, and I can do anything. When I come back, when My Son returns to this world, when the Christians’ winter is finally over—those who sleep within their ‘cocoons’ will emerge and spread their wings and fly.”
First Thessalonians 4:13-18 says: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. . . . For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (NKJV).*
God will return, and we’ll spread our wings and lift off into the heavens and we’ll shout: “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55, NKJV).
Someday there will be no death—only life, and life forever. We’ll be able to put our arms around our lost loved ones and never have to say goodbye. There will be no more pain, no more aches of loss and loneliness.
Won’t that be a wonderful day!
*Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright ” 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Stephanie Knight writes from Dove Creek, Colorado. This article was published October 21, 2010.