Grief as a celebration of life is not something I ever grasped the concept of. I’ve been horrible at losing people my entire life. You know those people who suffer loss after loss, and still they are so strong in their faith and resolve? The ones that seem to be a living, breathing example of how we’re supposed to do this? Let’s just say that whenever they call their weekly meetings, I am not in attendance. My reactions to loss have run the gamut of emotion all the way from a total lack of it to being so overwhelmed with emotion that it cannot be contained or controlled. It’s no wonder that after certain losses in my life, someone said in conversation that they believed I was emotionally unstable. They had no idea just how true it was, and neither did I. How can you be emotionally stable when your foundation is built on ever-shifting sand?
Most of my losses took place during my “lost” years. There’s a certain kind of poetry to that, but I assure you, there is no pentameter with its prose. Now, I am facing loss once again. My uncle, a man who once made me feel welcome in a family I was never quite sure I could ever belong to, is dying of lymphoma. He’s a pastor. He had to retire some time ago due to his terminal illness, but if he physically could, I know he’d still be at the pulpit every Sunday morning illuminating God’s word for the congregation. I never got to hear my uncle preach (we always lived too far away to make a weekend trip of it, it seems), but I am sure that God flowed through him in that church as much as He shines through him in his personal life.
My uncle is an amazing man. Still, it is only through the writings of his daughter, my cousin, that I have come to understand what this world is losing and heaven is gaining. Reading her words always brings a smile before the rivers start flowing. This loss is different for me for a few reasons. I have been able to say goodbye and tell my uncle exactly what he’s meant to me while he was still able to reply to me. Also this is the first loss that has been memorialized before its completion. To have an almost daily account of the last days of my uncle is opening my eyes to the beauty in the midst of the sadness. In a world where people try to control things that were never meant to be under our control, my uncle has relinquished all control to the Lord. He is happy to be going home. I keep trying to think of more scriptures besides the shepherd’s prayer and the only one that comes to mind at this moment is found in First Corinthians, chapter fifteen.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57
Sharing my grief with my Christian brothers and sisters yesterday, I was led to this song by the Wailin’ Jennys:
I struggled with whether or not to share this here, because I don’t want to shift focus on to me during this time. Not everything is about me. Most things aren’t. In the end, I decided to obey God and share this with you all, because it really is an important part of my walk with Him; To grieve in a way that honors not only my uncle, but our Heavenly Father. The latest update says that he is still with us this morning. His breathing has become shallow, and he is slipping gently away from all of us as he gets closer to the gates of Heaven. My cousin writes of his ever-widening smile as his time gets smaller. That alone is a comfort. To see in real life application that being God’s servant means not having to fear death is probably the greatest comfort one could receive. To know I will see my uncle again warms my sad heart. I look forward to that day with joyous anticipation. In the meantime, I will celebrate life.