The Death of a Life ~E Reiss
Death - I'm not a fan.
Part of me wants to start with some intellectual / theological thing that somehow God holds the whole dream in His head and death now with His promise being fulfilled later is somehow better even if that is mysterious.
Uh-huh. That buzzing you hear is the ejection of that thought before it even gets started.
Part of me just wants to be sad. Part of me hasn't really accepted it yet. My father in law, Wayne Grimsey went to be with the Ancient of Days yesterday morning early. My lady hasn't really walked with grief in this way much - but she's handling it pretty well. And as for me, well... I can't say grief is an old friend... but I can say that it is a bit like an old shoe that is familiar in its familiarity, even as it rubs your foot sore. It hurts. There is legitimate sorrow. But it is a pain with purpose (or it can be that) and it isn't forever.
So I feel the need to write like a crazed Walt Whitman, railing and poetic, slapping wildly at words and let language try to get away if it can. But I also feel the need for some structure, so here goes, three things and I'll let this rest for now.
We're uncomfortable with death because we weren't ultimately made for it. It's a kluge. A bad fit. A leaky patch.
Imagine if I spun the following scenario... you get to have everything you ever wanted. A great job that is fulfilling and meaningful with great pay. A great family with a spouse that loves you and never leaves. Well above average children who make it to adulthood and become successful and happy. A great house. Enough income to really live well, to enjoy good things in life.
Then after a few years you die and you're done. End of story.
Seems unsatisfying doesn't it? That scenario just sucks. It does. In that context even the "dream" life seems kind of small and empty and short.
That's because it IS small and empty and short, compared to the eternity we were created to be a part of. Life can be good... and full of meaning... but in my heart... that meaning is ultimately made whole in the thought that this isn't all there is. There is more.
Ernest Hemingway famously wrote that, "all stories, if continued long enough, end in death."
Anyone who knows me has heard me mention that there is one that doesn't. And because of the one that doesn't, our story doesn't have to end either. The chapter closes. A new one opens. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Dealing with grief is best met head on. He's a persistent little cuss and hard to shake, or ignore. Like shame in Lewis' description... grief is like a really hot cup of coffee. You can't do anything with it, except drink it down. Try anything else and it will burn you.
If you're entering a cycle of grief, (or haven't exited one yet) allow yourself to feel. It won't kill you, though it might feel that way at times. You don't have to shiver. You really can just let yourself be cold for a few minutes.
It can be a powerful time of growth if you let it be. Our natural tendency is to avoid pain and run like the dickens when it appears. In this case, resist that urge. Ask God to guide you through the process. And you'll see things that are amazing. Priorities clarify. Minutiae fades. Important things become important again. And we remember.
We also get clobbered into a train of thought about spending the currency of our lives well. That isn't a bad thing, especially for those of us with puppy focus. This season of life doesn't last forever. It waxes and wanes and fades and starts and stops and hitches and jerks and abruptly ends. Make the most of it. Redeem the time.
That thing on your heart that is really big and that you want to do? Don't wait. Write it down. Get it moving. Today.
That beautiful project you want to pull together? Pull! With both hands. Keep pulling.
That person you need to re-connect with... please do.
But don't get stuck. The decisions you make in this season are deep ones and they affect a shaping of the soul that is an accelerant to normal process and internal development. Don't run, don't abstain, don't wall off. Feel. Reflect. Learn. Grow. And come to resolution in moving forward. My mind is settling into the process phase of this and I'm trying to think of ways to be an encouragement to Karen and a help to the rest of the family if I can. I look forward to the time to think and reflect as we'll fly over the darkened winter landscape tomorrow morning.
Seeing this through Evangeline's eyes is kind of amazing. Children are such a gift. She turned 4 last Friday... and doesn't get death yet. Going to heaven is like going to Idaho. They're not really gone and they can come back anytime. I know it isn't healthy, but my goodness would I keep her there if I could.
Karen explained it to her like this.
Paeyoo (the grandpa name on that side of the family...) has gone to heaven to give God a big hug.
Yeah, that's a surprisingly sophisticated way of thinking about it. And today Evangeline said that and crossed her little arms and made an exaggerated hugging motion back and forth. Then she said this, "I'm glad he is in heaven, I didn't want him to be sick and feel bad. I'm not sad." She's precocious to be sure, but she said it with such a weight and a spirit of wisdom that I wonder if she doesn't understand more than I think she does.
I'm glad he's in heaven too. I didn't want him to be sick or feel bad either.
I'm still a little sad, though. I'm not quite as old as Evangeline is yet.
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
~1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
2/6/2013 02:58:29 pm
Great article Eric!
2/6/2013 03:02:51 pm
Thank you for your reflection. I'm not quite as old as Evangeline is either. :)
2/6/2013 11:10:14 pm
Thanks for sharing, E.
2/7/2013 01:12:34 am
Your words are particularly relevant for me at this moment. My 99-year old mother has been in hospice for a long time. Her mind is sharp but her body is worn out. I learned last night that she has lost most of her will to live and "just wants to sleep" (her reference to death). It won't be long before she gets to give God a big hug. There will be a joyful reunion in heaven with family members and friends as they celebrate her arrival.
2/7/2013 03:50:50 am
Beautiful Eric. Sorry for you loss Love to you and your family
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At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.