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Your Views: Hope and death are intertwined, all part of the mystery of life
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Every time I speak at a funeral or visit someone in the hospital, I’m reminded how painful life is. I’ve spent countless hours with people who have lost loved ones, and with people who are dying. As you age, you begin to lose loved ones to heart disease, cancer and dementia.

You think about how brief your own life is. Every New Year, we remember those who died during the past year. This year, my generation said goodbye to many of our own. But I have hope. I believe the universe knows and loves us. The older I get, the less I care about whose belief system is best or whose version of God is the most accurate.

I’m bothered when religious people focus on our differences, rather than what we have in common. For me, God is the ultimate mystery, but I trust the mystery. My hope is not grounded in whether or not I believe certain things or attend church. My hope is grounded in experiences that I, along with countless others, have had, which point to something more.

Coincidences? Maybe. Hallucinations? Possibly. A desperate grasping at straws? Sometimes. We humans are good at convincing ourselves of truths that aren’t really true.

Still, over the past 60 years, I’ve witnessed too much to simply write it all off as coincidence or hallucination. I know too many credible people who have seen what most of us can’t. Yes, there’s gullibility, charlatans, hypocrites, too much judging, and way too much money and violence. But buried deep inside every religion, and within nature itself, there’s a common treasure of hope we all need.

I understand both sides of the debate, and I’ve had my share of doubts. Still, I believe the world is more than just physical time and space; we are more than just physical bodies. Death marks the end of many things, but not the end of who we ultimately are. There’s more, and it’s all good.

So, to those walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I offer my own small testimony that the world is more than we know. Life is a mystery, stained with pain and death. But, as Jesus, and so many others taught, you can trust the mystery. Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high; there is that place you dreamed of, once in a lullaby.

Alan Shope
Gainesville

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