“When you hide your face, they (all living things) are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.”
Psalm 104: 29-30
When a 14-year-old boy dies from a bizarre accident (like my younger brother), we have every reason to mourn the loss of his young life. We know he will miss out on so many experiences in life such as dating, driving, hanging out with his buddies, getting married and having his own children – basically, growing up. For this, we are deeply saddened for him. For ourselves, we mourn our own personal loss of this young blossoming relationship with a child we’ve grown to love so much.
The other end of the spectrum is when a 97-year-old man dies. This man lived a very full life of pastoring several churches in his lifetime, was married and had 4 children which led to many grandchildren and even more great (really great!) grandchildren. He was very fruitful in both his marriage and his work. He had fulfilled what the Lord asked of him. So when he left this world early this morning, our mourning isn’t quite as deep, as we recognize he had lived his life to the fullest and run his race well.
We know this is the cycle of life: birth, growth, death. We cannot escape this pattern. So isn’t death the end?
NO!! The reason we as followers of Jesus and believers in the Most High God can actually be at peace about the death of a fellow believer, is because we have HOPE. That hope is not the type that wishes for something to be true, but KNOWS it to be true. How is this possible? Because we have an actual personal 1-on-1 relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We know God to be true! He has shown Himself to be active in each of our lives; working, forgiving, encouraging, guiding, speaking, holding, disciplining, training, and always loving us, as any great Father would do for his children.
As this 97-year-old man is my grandfather (whom I’ve had the privilege of knowing for 23 of my 53 years) I am now contemplating why we have such somber funerals for a man like this. I get it – he is now dead and gone, no more life here with us, only memories and pictures remain of him. But is this really true? Grandpa’s life remains with us because we are here. We are his blood. We are the fruit of his marriage, and the thousands he pastored and encouraged are the fruit of his work and passion for being a servant of God!
I say that I will not wear black to his funeral because I want to celebrate his life rather than mourn the loss of it. I’d rather sing praises than sing sad songs. But, even the Israelites mourned their loss of Moses and Aaron for 30 days. Typically they would have a 7-day mourning period, but those that were esteemed to be greater received the higher honor of more grieving. So maybe I do need to be more mindful of the respect earned by an aged man of God, and weep for our loss!
“As for you [Abraham], you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age.”
It used to bother me when I would hear or read the phrase “Rest In Peace”. My theory was that there is no resting involved when you’ve died, because your spirit is heaven bound! Only your physical body is now at rest. But if you think about it, this life is the hard work; the constant struggle and battle to overcome temptations and sin, the believing in God whom we cannot see, the faith to trust in this same God to care for and protect us, and know that beyond any doubt that whatever circumstances we encounter, He is and always will be in control. For this, maybe we do earn “rest” by dying in this life, and going to spend eternity with our Lord. Perhaps in heaven we will all have “work” to do, a role to play, but I seriously doubt that it will require hard labor like life here does.
So, Grandpa, I will say to you, “Rest in peace”, because I know where you are. I will wear black, along with other color, to mourn our loss, but I will also celebrate your amazing service to the Lord you have finally met face to face, the One whom you followed and spoke of all the days of your life! May you be gathered to your people. I love you.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
Photo by: Kari Wiseman – Celebrating with Grandpa