May 15, 2010
Don’t look at me that way. You know that our computers grow on us like appendages whether we care to admit it or not. Much like the brains inside our heads they retrieve, store, and catalog our thoughts. Some become mouthpieces by which we communicate facts and feelings.
We’ve done all that we can to revive her but, technically speaking, its quite obvious that her days are numbered. Kind of sad especially since some parts of her have aged so well. It’ll be hard to let her go even though her quality of life has been less than satisfactory for quite some time. But then again I’ve found that to be true of most who are dying.
And technically speaking, when I think about it, we’re all dying. Truthfully that thought does not cross my mind every day. If it did I’d probably live more purposefully. It just so happens that May is a unique month which causes me to reflect upon death more than usual.
Let me explain because it wasn’t always this way.
Once upon a time I reveled in the blossoms and colors of spring. That was before the month of May marked three anniversaries. Now when the calendar rolls around to the last day of April a sense of dread hovers over me like a dark ominous cloud. I can’t wait for May to be over and June to arrive.
Perhaps you find that confusing. Aren’t anniversaries a time for celebration? Normally my answer would be yes. But these occasions are a bit different because they mark the deaths of three people I dearly loved: my father-in-law, my Dad, and my best friend.
My father-in-law died quite a few years back, my Dad four years ago, and my friend this time last year. Some say it’s not normal to grieve this long or hard. Perhaps that is true. I’m uncertain that there are any hard fast rules when it comes to dealing with loss and the changes that it brings.
It’s possible that my grief has been compounded by the fact that I was with all three of these people when they died. That has a tendency to etch certain details in one's mind. I also spoke at their “home-going services." Some people call them funerals but I like to think of them as memorials or home-going celebrations. Just my personal preference since they were all believers. There was joy in the midst of the pain. We knew where they’d gone and that we’d see them again.
It’s basically just a matter of WHEN. After all, we’re all dying, technically speaking. When viewed in the light of eternity that thought isn’t really morbid or morose it’s more of a spiritual truth to be embraced.
“Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.” II Corinthians 4:16b NLT
I find comfort in the fact that at some point and time, determined by God alone, I’ll be united again with those whose absence in my life has left a gaping holes that are much like open wounds.
It takes the sting out death.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” I Corinthians 15:55
But it does not make the loss much less painful.
Some days offer a slap of reality that brings a dull ache. Other days, like special occasions, bring gut punches that result in inexplicable agony. On those days, when the wind is literally knocked out of me by songs I hear, stories I wish I could share, events I’d always dreamed we’d be attending together—I remember.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.” I Thessalonians 4:13-15 NLT
And I find hope in the midst of despair. Comfort in my sorrow. Joy in spite of sadness. Peace amidst the symphony of words that as of yet remain unspoken. Unspoken because no matter when a person leaves, or how much preparation we’ve had, there is never enough time to say all that needs to be said. Never enough time to do all we’d planned to do.
Not in these mortal bodies.
That’s one of the reasons death is a part of life. Without it there is no immortality. And without immortality there is no hope.
I never dreamed that the Scripture I read at my father-in-law’s memorial service would be something that I would cling to so dearly. Throughout the Word I find hope in so many places it’s impossible to list them all.
Yet in grief I find myself often returning to I Thessalonians 4:13-15 and I remember that technically we’re all dying and that dying is not the end but rather the beginning of forever.
Some days it seems like forever since my loved ones died. Other days it seems like I’ll forever feel the pangs of missing them. In reality heaven is only a heartbeat away.
As a parting message, my friend had pre-arranged to have framed art presented to each of her family members at the graveside. The words said "This is not goodbye just see you later." How true.
The scene came flooding back to me recently and caused me to ask God to help me process my pain and, at the same time, not miss the opportunities with those who remain.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s very important that I don’t spend so much time living in past memories that I neglect making new ones. It is alright to gaze but there’s no time to graze because when it’s all said and done precious moments are what we cling to. They help us to get by until we are reunited again.
Technically speaking we are well on our way so I prayerfully concede these anniversary dates. It’s not possible to change them but it is highly probable that God can help change the way I view them. He’s already doing so and, in light of eternity, there is a wonderful future awaiting me. But there is also the gift of life which needs to be embraced here and now.
As someone once wisely said "that’s why they call it the present."