It is very hard to accept an early death. When friends die who are seventy, eighty, or ninety years old, we may be in deep grief and miss them very much, but we are grateful that they had long lives. But when a teenager, a young adult, or a person at the height of his or her career dies, we feel a protest rising from our hearts: "Why? Why so soon? Why so young? It is unfair."
But far more important than our quantity of years is the quality of our lives. Jesus died young. St. Francis died young. St. Thérèse of Lisieux died young, Martin Luther King, Jr., died young. We do not know how long we will live, but this not knowing calls us to live every day, every week, every year of our lives to its fullest potential.
As I consider going back to "real life" today after the experience of the last week or so, I pause and blink. It feels daunting. But when I read this, this passage immediately came to mind:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Philippians 1:21-27)
As Claire's life witnessed to us, the only way we can persevere through the heavy burdens of this "transitory life" (2 Corinthians 4:18, JB Phillips version) is by doing this:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
We will still be sad, we will walk with a limp... but we will move forward gently and persistently. If we are still here, it is because apparently we still have work to do. Do not deny the weight of grief on your spirit. Come to God in your brokenness and pain. You don't have to gut your way through it. He is enough. He will carry you.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)