One of the great film-makers, Ingmar Bergman, died over the weekend at the age of 89. He won three Academy Awards but none for what is considered his greatest picture, The Seventh Seal. The title is a reference from the book of Revelation in the New Testament. Bergman was fascinated with the brevity of life and almost cheerfully made movies which dealt with the darkness of death. While he professed no religious belief he grew up with a stern father who was a Lutheran pastor. In interviews he would recall as a boy slipping in to funeral services with all their solemnity.
The movie "still" above is from a scene in the Seventh Seal where the main character plays chess with the Grim Reaper. I suppose we are all engaged in that chess game whether we want to acknowledge it or not. We tend not to dwell on the fleeting nature of life -- how could we function otherwise? -- but from time to time we are aware that our days should not be taken for granted.
I arrived at the hospital this morning to discover that the elderly man I had been visiting during the past two months had died in the early hours of the morning. His family was wonderfully supportive and he knew it. Wife, children, grandchildren friends all sat by his side during the past few weeks. He died peacefully, which was a blessing.
Still, the diagnosis of terminal cancer a few weeks ago caught all of them off guard. While the spectre of death was at hand it didn't conquer them.
Christ showed us by encouragement and example how to play that chess game and we can be grateful.