Yesterday, a dearly loved member of my family passed away. She was eighty-three and died from a mixture of old age and internal complications.
Thankfully, my family felt moved to say our goodbyes to this dear relative, and so last week my father and I drove 800 miles to Florida. We managed to spend a good amount of time with her, although she was unconscious or incoherent most of the time. We sang over her, prayed, spoke, laughed, cried. . . and we made memories.
During this time, I was re-introduced to many of my dad’s close family, including eight of his cousins and several of second-cousins. Here, I felt so greatly welcomed, it was almost astounding. Every single one of his close cousins made it a point to tell me that they loved me.
This is astounding even for a Christian family. Four out of the five that did this knew Jesus; the other did not. All of them made it a point to spend time with me, whether that meant taking me to the grocery store or just asking me about the 1940 presidential candidates.
“I’m just the teenager” is a mantrum drilled into me from experience. Because of some family members, I am used to feeling rather young, immature, and not excepted, which is perfectly understandable. I am, after all, a “stupid teenager”.
It was these Florida cousins, however, that made a huge impact on me. They could have ignored me, they could have treated me negatively, but they spoke to me as if I were an adult and held me to the same standards. I will never forget this.
Furthermore, it was in Florida that I was first introduced to possibly the most beautiful form of grieving I had ever seen. My great-aunt, the woman that died, never had any desire to survive this. She made it a point from the beginning of her road of sickness to tell the doctors not to make her better. Instead, they made her feel comfortable and waited.
This form of waiting usually isn’t easy on the immediate family. I have seen many types of grieving, most brought about by that horrible doubt that penetrates at the worst possible moment.
“Was she a Christian? Where were his beliefs?”
I personally have experienced this. Interestingly, this was not the case with my Florida kin. Every one of them, even the unbelievers (outnumbered 3-1) knew where she was headed. She was that kind of woman; the kind that impacts thousands in the greatest way possible. There was zero doubt as to her Faith.
This created a phenomenal situation. Instead of major grief, brought about by doubt, there was hope and joy. Finally, my great-aunt would be free of the pain she had suffered for so many years, and she would see her beloved Jesus.
This didn’t eradicate grieving. No, it simply muted it. The knowledge of her future laid at ease the minds and hearts of all her children and grandchildren. We laughed, we cried, we talked, we prayed, and we sang.
This response is precisely how Christians should, and often do, respond to death. Gathering around each other in comfort, love, and prayer, the Christian response to grieving is thirty thousand times more beautiful than the sterile mourning found in the homes and hospitals of unbelievers. What a beautiful gift God has given us! In conquering death, He gave us hope!
“The Christian response to grieving is thirty thousand times more beautiful than the sterile mourning found in the homes and hospitals of unbelievers.”Tweet
Sometimes, God chooses to make death easier. In His wisdom, He decrees that the determined man or woman shall pass peacefully away in their sleep. Other times, he appoints a long and difficult road, similar to the one walked by my great-aunt.
My great-aunt had been legally blind for almost half a decade. She was missing one of her lungs, and she was unable to walk without the assistance of a cane (humorously named Josephine). Her journey was one of pain and suffering, but at the end, God came through.
On her deathbed, my dad’s first thought was remarkable. He verbally uttered the words, “Death isn’t sexy”. I knew exactly what he meant. Hollywood often attempts to convince us that death is an easy and beautiful process, something that was just “part of life”.
But no, this death was not pretty. It was slow and hard. Yet through it all, God showed through. The last words I heard her utter (not her actual last words, just the ones I heard before I left) were a request for the song “Goodness of God” to be sung by my father and I.
In Uganda, the grieving process is completely different from the Western style. When a person dies, the closest family gathers around the body for a single night, and during that night, most of the community will surround them and enter into the grieving process, often weeping for someone they hardly knew. In doing this, they take a small part of the pain and grief from the family and put it upon themselves.
I wish the Americans did this. It’d be nice to have my neighbors cry with me if my grandfather died.
Seriously, though, when these grieving processes take place, something beautiful happens: God enters into the hearts and minds of every person in the room, regardless of religion, and meets them in their need. He comforts His children, and for that we can be deeply thankful. Praise God for His grace!
Alright, that’s all for today. Thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you did, please make sure to click that Follow button below (or to the side). Then, when I release new posts like this, you’ll get notified. Thanks again, and I hope you have a fantastic day!
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