Solomon said that it is good to go to the house of mourning, for there “the living will lay it to his heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). This morning the “house of mourning” came to Canadians as they woke to the sad news that Jack Layton, the leader of the NDP, passed away in the early hours in his home in Toronto. At a time like this, politics and policies mean very little; Canadians from all sides have been touched by the news, and for good reason. Mr. Layton was an inspiration; his energy won the hearts of thousands and inspired the results of the last election in Canada when the NDP rose to the Official Opposition Party, for the first time in history, and against all the odds. But what made the result all the more striking was that Mr. Layton accomplished all of this in the face of serious health issues. As death shadowed him he kept pressing on, trying to outwit and outrun the inevitable; a testament to his optimistic determination. A short while after his unprecedented election victory he took a leave of absence to focus on his health and family. Unfortunately he had only four more weeks to enjoy his family, and encourage his party. We pay tribute to him and offer condolences to his wife and family.

As I woke to the sad news this morning my mind returned to Ecclesiastes 12:5 “Man goes to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets… Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was…” Two realities Solomon would have us lay to heart; first, the continual presence of death. Second, the certain advance of death.

In everything and everywhere we are in the company of death. It pursues our every turn and through all of life we are on our way to our long home. For some death hides behind the pleasures of life; for others it stares them in the face. For some it creeps silently and takes them by surprise; for others it wears them out by a long hard battle. But death is never far from any one of us.

Death not only accompanies us but we are advancing towards it and it towards us. That it will reveal itself is a certainty; “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

In the face of death we need to think, to “lay it to heart.” Since God has appointed the day of my death let me appropriate the benefits of His death; “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:28).