Death messes with us. I know it messes with me. Last week another soul was set free from their fallen body and all its sickness. She completed the days God had set for her here. She lived it so well. She was compassionate and kind. She loved Jesus with everything she had, and her joy and care splashed all over everyone who came in contact with her.
In my mind I know there is comfort that we do not grieve as those who do not have hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). She has started the first real chapter of her life, as C.S. Lewis calls it. This was just the preface. I am so happy for her that she has finished her race and won the prize.
I have no doubt about that, but the reality is, she lived so well that she will be deeply missed. She loved well, and loved many. She led others to her Savior and now she is no longer here. She has left a beautiful legacy behind. The story God wrote with her chapters is marvelous, but reading about something, and hearing about something, is very different than personal interaction.
She will be missed on the daily level, at the special occasions, the odd occasions, the moments that she made special by her presence. I have had the privilege of knowing a few souls that lived so well. They pursued Christ with deep passion, and loved people so deeply, sometimes at great cost to themselves. They were people who suffered well, and even though death was their constant companion they lived life to the fullest. They had a gift of welcoming people into their life and loving them, seeing them, and ultimately pointing them to Jesus.
These people were such a pleasure to know. They are people I want to be like. I want what they had. I want to give what they did, but that is what makes it harder. They are people that are missed. There is an ache that is deep. Many smiles, many good stories, definitely a celebration of life but there is a deep missing. I think of the prophet Isaiah and how much he missed King Uzziah and God asks him how long he plans on grieving and lamenting.
God knew the affect of sin on us. He warned Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This ushered in the age of death. Thankfully we live in the age of the penalty for that act of disobedience being paid for. Death has been conquered, and there is hope of eternal life and the world is being redeemed. The comfort from this is great, but I think about Jesus outside the tomb of His friend, Lazarus, and how he wept. “He shed tears” is the literal translation (John 11:35).
Jesus felt that moment even though He knew His purpose, and what He was about to do. He entered our grief, and the grief of the ages from the garden. He knew He would have victory over death, but also chose to enter into our grief. There is something comforting about that.
Although I do wonder what Lazarus thought, and said when he was called out of the grave, called back from eternity. I would think he was probably pretty upset with his sisters for wanting him back and having to do more days here after he had stepped into eternity. There are no recorded words of his so I will have to wait to the other side to have that conversation. In the meantime though to miss people in their death, to grieve, to weep, to shed tears is the price.
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
I must as Lewis suggests enter into this vulnerability. I need to be willing to weep and grieve at loss, which as hard as it is, the alternative is not connecting and knowing these people that change me, grow me, and make my life so much more meaningful. So death becomes a bittersweet moment. They have gone home, and we are still here left with a missing of them, but growing in our hope that one day we will join then for an amazing party in our Father’s house.