My grandfather was my favorite person.
He loved me without conditions or expectations. I never had to earn his approval, explain myself, or apologize for my quirky personality. I spent most of my childhood tethered to insecurities about my intelligence … my appearance … my worth, but not when I enjoyed time with him. Over bowls of strawberry ice cream and long walks in the woods I felt witty and smart because I knew he thought I was those things.
He encouraged me to write … cheered me on when I made the seemingly crazy decision to move to Orlando on my own after college graduation … and walked me down the aisle at my wedding. Pride shot through his eyes when he visited one of my work places. Love and peace owned his smile when he held my first baby in his arms.
Two weeks ago today, on my fortieth birthday, my grandfather abandoned his battered body, escaped this broken world and entered the Kingdom of Heaven.
His passing wasn’t a surprise. Those who loved him were as prepared as we could be … and we rejoiced that his suffering finally ceased. But oh, how we hurt … how we still hurt.
When death collides with love and birth intersects with rebirth, pain mingles with fierce beauty. Hope is immeasurable and yet the loss remains significant.
I consider it an honor that my grandfather and I now share a birthday … my earthly … his eternal, but the little girl within really wishes she could have heard him sing “Happy Birthday” to her just one more time.
When someone dies, many people are quick to offer their sympathies with a healthy dose of BUTS, in hopes of minimize your grief with a glance at the bright side of the situation.
“I know you loved him, BUT you should be happy that you had him in your life for so long.”
Well, I am happy that I was blessed with having my grandfather in my life for four decades, but I’m sad that I won’t take anymore long walks with him this side of heaven.
“I’m sorry for your loss, BUT at least you have memories.”
Memories are precious … life giving … healing enabling and I’m thankful for every single one I have of him. However, I’m sad that my kids will never have the memory of attending a Phillies game with him or holding his hand while searching for teaberries.
“I know this is a difficult time for you and your family, BUT you should be happy that he isn’t suffering.”
Of course I’m happy that his suffering ended. I rejoice that he walks again. But can I be honest? I still miss him.
Those who console mean well, yet their words seldom bring healing at times such as these.
I think that sometimes Christians are afraid to grieve or at least feel guilt when they mourn as if they are dishonoring Christ’s sacrifice by shedding tears for their loss. But grief does not erase love or hope, it just means that your heart aches for more time with someone you cherish, while you’re celebrating that you had the opportunity to know that person in the first place.
When Paul left the Ephesian elders, Scripture mentions their grief.
When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. – Acts 20: 36 – 38.
Paul’s friends felt sorrow even though they were thankful for much.
The truth that soothes me most during this time of great loss actually comes from a passage of God’s word often read at weddings. I read these verses at my grandfather’s funeral because they don’t only apply to marriage vows, they are meant for us to live during every life event. The happy, the trying, the mundane. Love is paramount to healing. Love is necessary for living life well.
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. I Corinthians 13: 1-8(a)
Should you be in a season of grieving right now, please know that I am so sorry for your loss. I hope that you will give yourself time to hurt and to process your feelings. I pray that you are laying your burden at the feet of Jesus and allowing the Creator of love to minister to your soul.
My grandfather was amazing at loving others and I plan to honor his life by living in obedience to God by gaining a deeper understanding of what it means to receive love and bestow love in all circumstances.