Over the years as a pastor I have had the sacred opportunity to be with individuals when they took their last breath. In most cases, we know that death is near and so I sit with family as they watch their love one journey through the final moments of life. As we join them in their time of departure we realize that each breath could be their last one. As the breathing slows, eventually we witness that final breath. Immediately you realize that they are gone. Their body is still there before you, but the essence of their life has departed. They have taken their last breath.
Most people do not go through life thinking about their breathing unless they suffer from a serious breathing disorder. The typical person doesn’t really worry about their next breath. A human breathes about 960 breaths an hour, 23,040 breaths a day, 8,409,600 a year. Unless we get a lot of exercise, the person who lives to 80 will take about 672,768,000 breaths in a lifetime. We just naturally assume that there will be another breath.
Yet, for every individual there is a last breath. As individuals, we live with the knowledge of our mortality, even though we might deny it. Even with the length of our days extended by modern medicine, we still know that we will one day take our last breath. The question that leaves us to ask ourselves is what happens the moment after the last breath? Is it is simply the end or is there something more? Humanity since the beginning to time have pondered what happens after the last breath.
As a person of faith, I trust that the God who placed in his breath in us has a plan for when that natural breath ceases. In scripture, we read, “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.” (Job 12:10) According to the Bible, it is God who ultimately Lord over our living and our dying. Furthermore, as a Christian, I believe that because a person has a relationship with Jesus, when they take their last breath on earth, the next breath is the air of God’s eternal heaven. An eternity in which we will never have to be anxious about our final breath.
Yet, here in the present, each breath brings us closer to our final breath. Knowing this, we should consider now what happens next for us when that last breath is taken. This doesn’t mean we sit around stuck in fear of death, but it should lead us to contemplate what it means for us as individuals as we reflect on the moment after that last breath. While much of what happens after that last breath is still a mystery, we can trust in the God who will be there to receive us. We can live in hope, even in the face of death. A hope that we can experience in a relationship with Jesus Christ, where we trust Him with every breath of our living, even our last one.