Firework Display

How death and fireworks intersected one July 4th.
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My mother called me. Then my brother called and said, "It's his independence day." Grandpa Halverson passed away July 4th. He was 94. I'd meant to call him that week.

I was at a fireworks display with friends when I got the news. Grandpa was worth crying over right then and there. And soon the fireworks started. Whistles and green rockets bursting into pinwheels. Thunder and white blooms crackling and plummeting to earth. Booms and red corkscrews in whirling dervish. An overwhelming display.

In between all of that—in those split seconds of darkness—are the ghosts. Those almost undetectable columns and wisps of gray-white smoke against black sky. One for each firework. They float off with the wind, exiting stage left. A slow drift parade. A flickering silent film.

And then onto the next flash and bang.

Underneath all of this, in the band shell, is the city municipal orchestra, in white jackets, conjuring up a frenzied set of show tunes, marches, and patriotic numbers. Unable to see any of the display going on right above their heads. They miss it all. Year after year.

Life is too much. Too fast. I miss a great deal of it.

Someday I intend to run for city council on the platform that we change the annual fireworks display to the annual firework display. After we all take our seats on blankets and lawn chairs, there will be one firework. We can marvel at its light, and its color, and its sound, and its smell, and its shape against the darkness. And, its pall as it passes.

Then we will move our mouths in awe and shake our heads in astonishment, "Will you look at that? Can you believe it?" And, we won't help but wonder about such beauty. How was it made? Who can take it all in?

Then we will go home trembling in silence. It will be worth crying over right then and there.

But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I'll probably never fully understand. We're not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. … In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who's afraid of you now? (1 Corinthians 15:51-57—The Message)
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