I apologize in advance for the roughness of this post, but whenever I lose someone I love, I write. Below is a jumble of my processing of yet another death in our family. This is family death number eight between my husband and me in the last two and a half years. Though it was expected, it is never easy.
What is this life that we hold on so tightly to? We think we have control of our existence, but the days of our life are not ours to number. We never know how many days we will have. I’ve scrolled through Instagram this week crying and praying along with people who have newborns and three-year-olds hanging on to life. I have cried with the posts of those who lost pregnancies and infants. And, today, I’m crying with the loss of someone much older, but whose death carries the same ache.
My grandmother passed away this morning at ninety-one.
I know most people unrelated to us would look at that number and say a trite “well, she lived a good long life.” And, while that’s true, that doesn’t ease the ache of the vacuum she left behind. My grandpa tonight won’t think “at least she had a long life” as he lays down in a bed void of the one he’s been married to for well over sixty years. It doesn’t ease the pain for my dad or his brothers who have yet another family member to say “goodbye” to in less than two years. Any loss in life is hard, even as Christians. We have the hope of heaven and the knowledge that we’ll see our loved ones again someday, but we still have to soldier on and pray that the Holy Spirit comes and fills the void our loved one has left.
I am not sad for my grandmother’s sake. She is freed from a body that ailed her for years, and she is in Heaven meeting our Savior and reuniting with her son she has yet to see whole. No, on this day, she has shed the skin that we live our lives fighting against and gets to live in whole peace and happiness. For the Christian, “to die is gain.” My grandmother has gained so much today, even while we mourn what we have lost.
This morning I tried to explain to my daughters that we were bringing dinner to my grandfather, my parents, my uncle, and cousins and that those people would be sad. One asked me “but why are they sad?” And I crumbled. How do you explain life and death to ones who are so unmarred and believe that THIS life is infinite? How do I have to be the one to usher in a corner of darkness into their life, the reality of what sin brought into this world? Through tears, I told them that Grandpa had lost his mommy, that she was no longer here, but with Jesus. My almost-five-year-old (who accepted Jesus earlier this year), asked: “but how can that be sad?”
My oldest focused on the part that we can forget about in our sorrow: she is with Jesus. She’s not sad. She’s whole. She’s free. Where is the sadness in that?
But, I still struggle on days like this. It’s normal and human to struggle. I think about my grandpa, my uncles, my cousins, my siblings, my dad. I think about everyone who will look back on this day as a dark one, the day a piece of them left this earth.
As the years go by, I realize one of the beauties of death as a Christian, not just that we will get to see Jesus or our loved ones will, but I realize that with each earthly “goodbye” to a fellow Christian, heaven is filling up with some of our favorite people. What a celebration that will be when we die someday and find ourselves surrounded by Love of the purest form.
But, it also makes me think about here. I’m still here and alive and hanging around for the foreseeable future. Am I accomplishing what God has set before me? Am I pouring into these relationships that God has placed in my life? Am I exhibiting His love and showing others that there is true beauty in the Christian death?
It’s hard to think about, but it’s necessary. Tonight, as I gather around a meal with family, I’ll hug my loved ones closer and remember that the power of one life is what brought us together in the first place.