Jump Start # 2768
1 Thessalonians 4:18 “Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
This week I have been writing about the death of my father. His funeral was last Friday. Shakespeare once wrote, “Every man can master grief, except the one who has it.” And, I found truth in what that ole’ Englishman wrote. My sweet dad was ninety-five years old. His short term memory was not good. He was frail. We constantly worried about him falling and breaking a bone. And, he was a Christian since he was a teenager. I have preached and preached about death for decades. I have described it as nothing more than a door that you go through. And, as much as I was ready for dad to get to the other side where I knew he would be safe and cared for in ways we never could, the tears still come.
And, through this I want to share some lessons:
First, God’s people are amazing. The number of people that have reached out, and offered to do things, even in this crazy world of Covid is amazing. The family of God world wide reached out to us. There were people who I don’t think we’ve ever met, sending us the sweetest and kindest messages. And, what I found is that folks want to do something, but sometimes there just isn’t anything to be done other than pray and share your love. We tend to be a “doing” type of people. Engaged in good deeds is what we find in Titus. But there are times when there just isn’t much to be done. Sorrow and grief is a journey and each person must work their own way through it. Some do fairly well with this journey. For some, it’s a short journey. But others struggle. For others, it’s a long, long journey.
Second, as to our passage today, God’s word really helps. This is especially true when the one who passed away was a N.T. Christian. We know the hope. We know where they are. We know what God has promised. Although I cannot talk to my dad now, I know where he is. A course completed. A race finished well. Footprints left everywhere of hope, kindness, generosity, love and faith. The hope we find in Christ is that our walk is well worth it. Our sacrifices are well worth it. The dedication, commitment, worship and trust in the Lord are all well worth it. And, with these promises and hope comes the belief that I’ll see him again. I’ll see him on the other side. Those were my final words to him.
Third, making funeral arrangements are hard. If you have never been through that you ought to talk to someone before you do. We had an amazing funeral home that was so kind and wonderful. Not all are like that. I’ve done lots of funerals and I know a lot of funeral directors. I have a favorite down in my area. Some are strictly business. Cold, pushy and lacking patience. The funeral director is working for you. You are paying him. Take your time and arrange it the way you want. Covid restrictions made us dance through a few hoops to get what we wanted, but they worked with us. Also, a key factor is having siblings that are on the same page. We are. Through dad’s final days and death, the communication between the four of us was excellent. So when it’s time to make choices at the funeral home and there are literally dozens and dozens of choices from caskets, to vaults, to guest books, to obit wording, to the service, we worked well together. So many decisions. It took us about three hours, and we were all on the same page. My dad being a World War II vet, there was a lot of paper work that had to be filled out.
Fourth, stay close to God. Don’t use your sorrow as a time to skip worship. You may not feel like going and worse, you may not feel like talking to people, but it is necessary to stay connected. Your heart is hurting and no one understands better than the Lord. Hymns and prayers are helpful. Reading the Psalms helps. Reading the context of our passage helps. Understanding what happens after death is important. Not only does God know that your heart is breaking, God understands. He saw His Son die upon the cross. The death of Jesus crushed Satan. Jesus rose to never die again. That’s the hope the Christian has.
Finally, it’s ok to cry. I think we have somewhere slipped in the idea that if a Christian dies, we ought to have a party and be dancing in the streets. Jesus cried when He was a the grave of Lazarus. He cried knowing that in a few minutes He was going to bring Lazarus out of that grave again. Some folks don’t understand, and worse, they don’t get it. When someone boastfully proclaims, “You shouldn’t cry,” don’t respond. That person needs to put a bucket on their head and go stand outside are my thoughts. Just smile. Some folks don’t know tact. Some want to know details that are none of their business. Just smile. Some want to know about costs of funeral. Point them to the funeral director and he will gladly sell them three or four caskets if they want. Some want to know about life insurance. Unless they have their wallet opened up and are ready to help, it’s none of their business. One learns to smile a lot, even though he is crying on the inside.
I have found for me personally, I just want to be alone. I just want to sit in my office where I can control the environment and just sit. I find it hard to fire the engines up to get back to work, even though I need to. There’s no time off. The work goes on. I find myself not really caring any more what is going on in Washington. I find myself wanting to be with family. And, the tears flow.
Thank you for letting me share these thoughts. I hope that somewhere you can find some help for yourselves and to help others when it’s their turn to take this journey of grief.