Professor Axel Kahn spoke to France Inter about cancer having ‘caught up with him’ after all these years. He’s not unaware of the irony. He explains, “as a cancer specialist myself I know that in all likelihood I am on the final journey of my life … I used to wonder how I would feel when I was approaching death: here it is, I’m getting close, I’m living it.”
He declares, “I’ve often said that people are what they do … the choice of what I do, and how I do it, is more important than ever.” So professionally he’s handing on the baton of the fight against cancer and personally he’s focusing on his family at their country home, showing them how the stock fencing works, giving them Opinel knives (the French love their Opinels!) and enjoying simple things.
But the interview left me with great sadness. For this great man, ‘after death there is nothing’. His one hope is in the memories others may have of him: “there is perhaps the memory that you will have of me and that’s a kind of immortality”. So basically he has no hope – death is the end, then there is nothing.
My husband doesn’t really contemplate such things but if he’s asked what he thinks happens after death he says “probably nothing”. No hope.
But there’s another way of looking at death, one with hope: the body dies but the soul, the essence of who we are, does not. The Bible ends with the firm promise ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain’(Revelation 21:24). How? ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’(Acts 2:21). Jesus went through death on the cross to pay for our sin and was resurrected to prove that he has power over death so that those who have faith in him can have confidence in him when facing their own death (John 10:14-18).
I’m so desperately sad that at the moment my husband doesn’t see that God exists, that eternity exists and that we must choose in this life to follow a loving God or face a terrifying eternity without him. In this life God gives all of us sunshine, rain, opportunities to laugh and love and enjoy the natural world. But these good things come from God. If we choose to reject God, to live forever separated from him, those blessings will not follow us.
For now Husband isn’t thinking about these things; he feels well and where there’s life there really is hope. Jesus promises hope not just in this life but forever, to anyone who turns to him: “whoever comes to me I will never cast out”(John 6:37).