Shock. Loneliness. Overwhelming grief.
Those are just a few of a multitude of conflicting emotions that hit us hard when someone dies. Last month our church lost one of its founding members. More importantly, a wife lost her husband, two sons lost their dad, and a daughter-in-law lost a father who treated her as his own. A community lost one of its own.
Death often acts as a catalyst for reflection. For me, it is always a reminder of three very important things – (1) community is a strange phenomenon and (2) what meaning have I given to my life? and (3) remember the bigger picture.
Community: While I watched people pay their respects to a man I barely knew (despite having grown up with him), I was hit with these reminders again. Youth members set aside finals, hectic work schedules, and even long distances to support these two young men who are experiencing a loss difficult to comprehend. Some of us may not even be close to them; we stumbled with what we could possibly say; but we tried to be there and show that we care. Former members no longer attending our church took the time on a work night to honor a man who did a lot to help without saying much. A community often split by church politics, judgement, and gossip, came together as one in recognition of the value of this individual and the grief of his loved ones. It’s both beautiful and disturbing. There is incredible beauty in the ways in which many gave of themselves in order to help and support the family. It’s also disturbing to know that there is so much potential for our church and community to be stronger on the good days rather than just the bad ones and to not know how to make that happen. Having recently felt that God is calling me to stay in my home church and work to revive it; this was an especially difficult reality.
Meaningful Life: When a fellow classmate died my senior year of high school, our entire class was deeply affected. There was one thing that stood out for all of us in our memories of her – her smile. Her smile reflected inner joy. That was the first time I dealt with death on a more personal basis and the first time I asked myself “How would I want to be remembered?” As the viewing progressed, stories were told of a man who was always willing to help and work hard, who shared his faith with others, and who served “behind the scenes”. I know more about the kind of man he was now than I ever did before. His life reflected meaningful and humble service. His life reflected Christ.
I think it’s an important question to ask ourselves – What mark do I want to leave? I believe that when we look at life from that perspective, it helps us realign our goals with what God wants of us. My answer is that I want to be known as a woman who went out of her way to help others. That desire has manifested in the career choices I’ve made as well as the role I believe God has given me in ministry.
The Big Picture: Last but certainly not least, I sat there struggling to hold back tears at the sight of his loved ones falling apart and I looked back on my day and felt ashamed. I was so irritated that morning at having to deal with a 3 hour commute due to traffic, struggling to find someone to answer questions for my research project, and stresses from all corners. But what is all that in comparison to the grief I witnessed that night?
We’re so busy questioning God that we fail to recognize his eyes see it all and yet he loves us enough to listen to our rants. Why do we get mired in the details instead of looking at the bigger picture?
Death puts things into perspective. Why can’t we hold on to that perspective on a daily basis?