February 27, 2013
It has become conventional to think as if we are all going to live in this world forever and to view every case of bereavement as a reason for doubting the goodness of God. We must all know deep down that this is ridiculous, but we do it all the same. And in doing it, we part company with the Bible, with historic Christianity , and with a basic principle of right living, namely, that only when you know how to die can you know how to live.
There is a great contrast here between past and present. In every century until our own, Christians saw this life as preparation for eternity. Medievals, Puritans, and later evangelicals thought and wrote much about the art of dying well, and they urged that all of life should be seen as preparation for leaving it behind. This was not otiose morbidity, but realistic wisdom, since death really is the one certain fact of life."
A new, sweet friend lent me a book, O Love That WIll Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God. I've only read a few chapters but have already found such comfort in it. It is simply a compilation of short meditations taken from sermons and writings of pastors and theologians. It, so far, has been everything I have needed in learning and processing death. Death had never been a large part of my life and then all of the sudden, in the last 3 years, I have had one close loved one die each year. My grandmother on Christmas Eve of 2009, my Aunt Gail in January of 2011 and now, Richard in January of 2013. Why are the holidays so hard, I wonder?
While I loved both my grandma and aunt very dearly, they were certainly not near as big of a shock as Richard was, as they were both very sick and we knew it was coming. All this to say, I have honestly never sat and given death a lot of thought. Not until now, of course.
In the preface of this book the author compares death to the act of giving birth. She talks about how she really enjoyed being pregnant and, of course, enjoys being mother, but the thought of delivery really scared her.
"We sometimes have a similar though process about death. Life-good. Life after death with God-good. It's that process of labor and delivery into the next life we're not so sure about. In fact, we'd really rather not talk about it or even think about it. Yet I'm convinced that there is a real freedom, and even joy, in thinking it through, and that exploring death in light of the Scriptures can actually soothe our fears and infuse our thoughts about death with hope and peace."
I love this. I feel so connected to this thought and I find utter comfort and excitement to read all of the chapters in this book. It is such a necessity for me to see death in this way. I mean, if I don't, I will just go absolutely insane. I have to believe that Richard is in a beautiful, sorrow-free place now. I do believe it. But dealing with the grief of him not being here because he is in a sorrow-free, perfect place with God is still very difficult. But these thoughts give me hope and freedom to be happy for him, even though I miss him so much.
It is really hard for me to explain my feelings I have of joy and sorrow, them often flooding my heart at the same time. I imagine it is a lot like a woman who longs for nothing more than to be pregnant and to be a mother, and being happy for her best friend that is able to become pregnant, while she herself cannot conceive. I can only imagine what that heartbreak must feel like. And I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what it is like for a parent to lose their child. I know it is one of the deepest sorrows in the entire universe.
And now I feel like I am simply rambling and probably making people cry and not even making cohesive sense anymore. But what I really want to say, here, is that all of these situations are sad enough for us all to feel like our hearts have been thrown into high-speed blenders. And while my grief is crippling at times, I am working so hard to hear the Lord, to cling to Him, to hear what Richard would be saying to me now and what he would want me to do. He would want me to pray, all the time. "Talk to God," as he would say. And all I can really hope is that my constant need for God, and my constant need to share my constant need for God, will do nothing but give others hope in their own times of sorrow. I never, ever want to seem as if I am just over this situation, as we all know, I will never ever be "over" it. My knowing sweet Richard has changed my life for the absolute better in more ways than one. He will always be one of the greatest loves of my life and I am so grateful for him. I still get blown away that God chose me to spend his remaining months with him and I long to talk with him, hug him and hold his hand every single day. But my need for the Lord and my need to find silver linings in all that has happened is extreme. This is how I am and how I have always been. A forever optimist, searching for answers and positives. I hope to do nothing but comfort others around me, as so many have been comforts to me; and I can do none of this without God's guidance.
This book says that, really, angels rejoice more on the day we come home to the Lord, than on the day we are born. I think we should try hard to look at it this way (for all of our sanity). Today I was thinking back to when I told Richard that 25 was one of my favorite years. 24 had been hard for Richard, minus meeting me of course :), and he said, Well maybe 25 will be good for me, too. My initial reaction reminiscing that conversations was, and 25 was not really good to him. Then it hit me. For HIM, 25 was his best year. A month after he turned 25 he got to go home to Heaven! He no longer has to worry about any cares of this world. This world that we are not meant to live in forever.
Because of this, I will never categorize 26 (yes, I am a year older than him, a cougar if you will) as one of my best years, but for my sweet, precious Richard - 25 was his best year ever.