The phrase, “Things I thought I knew for sure” started showing up in my journal over and over in the past few years. The older I get the longer the list …
One of those things is death. I grew up in a Christian home and went to church every Sunday. But I don’t remember exactly where I got the notion that death would be an easy transition for a Christian. That notion was I thought, based firmly in scripture…” Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting…”(1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
I naively believed that Christian’s had a sort of insurance policy. Not only do we stay out of hell and have a good (mostly) easy and very fulfilled life but when it was time for death it would be a gentle transition. An easy transition for you and a sort of low key rejoicing taking place by those you left behind.
Although I never put it into words that was in fact my bottom line.
But in a 9 year span I lost my gramma, my little brother and my mom. During this time I had to face something…death has a sting. A heart piercing horrific sting. Even for the Christian.
Gramma was 82 years old and had lived a full and pretty wonderful life. She passed away rather suddenly after a few days in the hospital. Her passing was peaceful with her family standing around her bed singing praise songs and praying. But I have a vivid memory of walking down the hospital corridor the too bright lights reflecting on the shiny floor and thinking how empty the world felt without her in it and how there was a pitch black hole inside me. I was so shocked that I didn’t feel more joy at her being set free from her aged body. I thought it would feel different…the death of a saint. More hopeful perhaps.
I wrestled with my new reality of death in the months after Gramma left and ended up adjusting my “bottom line” a little.
Then a few months later, my little brother’s cancer came back. David was only 19 when he was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma. He fought a long hard battle, but had been cancer free for a few years.
Within a year he was rapidly declining and finally let go of life on this side of eternity. It was a warm starless night, we had been keeping vigil at the hospital for days and once again our shrinking family shuffled down a too bright hospital corridor feeling defeated and barely alive ourselves. The pain of David’s death was excruciating and made more intense by watching my parents suffer. And suffer they did. I’ve never experienced it, but I feel certain there’s nothing that comes close to the horrific pain of losing a child.
I remember my mom’s phone calls in the months that followed, sometimes this Godly woman with more faith than anyone I’ve ever known would ask me…do you think there’s really a heaven? I can’t picture him there? I don’t know for sure where he is right now. I need to know for sure.
She worked through her doubts and fears but I can honestly say she never truly recovered from the loss. As for me, try as I might, I couldn’t reconcile my beliefs on death with my experiences. I continued to repeat all the things I’d been taught to my mom.
While she walked the razor’s edge that is grief I tried to encourage her with things like: “Be thankful that he’s happy now. He’s better off. You’ll see him again…soon”. Although laced with truth the phrases rang a bit hollow. One of those phrases though, proved to be truer than I dreamed possible, “You’ll see David again soon…” was nothing if not prophetic…
Part 2 tomorrow…this was just too long to put into one day Peeps…
~love to you today~