Funerals, Grief and Comfort

Today was the 7th funeral I’ve been to in my life. I remember 6 of the 7 them very clearly. They were all very different, some took place in small intimate chapels,  some were in large packed out churches, some were to celebrate a long-lived life and some mourned a life that ended too soon.  At every funeral, something happens to me as I’m looking at the casket. I  always find myself imagining the person in the casket, just jumping out and saying “Hey! Just kidding! I’m here!” I think that’s the denial/shock  stage of grief rearing its ugly head.  For the first few days after hearing that someone died, its hard to wrap my head around someone dying. But, Funerals always make the loss seem real.  In the end, the person never jumps out, the casket is taken away and put in the ground. I’ve taken a lot of spiritual strength tests, and I always get empathy. Funerals are hard because you see the family, you see their grief, you see close friends and neighbors all sitting just a few pews ahead. Tissues in hand and a burden so heavy.  I want to get up and hug them, I cry for them, my heart aches for them. Funerals are hard.

Death is hard to comprehend. One day someone is alive, and then the next they are not. Leaving behind material items, unfinished school work, clothes on the ground, friends who didn’t say goodbye, friends who wish they could have.

Death is sudden.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I’ll see you again.”
“Let’s keep in touch.”
“Have a good weekend!”

These are the things I said to the people who died the last time I saw them. And it’s not my fault for not being able to predict the future, but sometimes I just want to kick myself for not hugging them longer, or being more intentional. A lot of “could have’s” and “should have’s” flood my head. 2 of my friends took their own lives, so that whole  “could have” “should have” feelings were magnified with the “Why?” question.

Places, things, events all become very sacred after someone dies. I had lunch at Chickfila one Friday afternoon with some band people. Chris was with us and he introduced me to Chick-fil-a sauce. That night he passed away in a motorcycle accident. It was the first and last meal I had with Chris. 4 years later and I still get chick-fil-a sauce at every meal. After my friend Austin died, we put up a memorial on his tuba locker in the band hall. To anyone else, it was just a locker with a tuba in it. To us, it was sacred. It was his space. My last time spent with Katie was a year ago at an outdoor mall type place. We sat on a bench next to these fountains with Fro-yo in our hands. Maybe, instead of going to her grave, I’ll go that bench, and I’ll sit and talk with her there. I’ll add those long cinnamon sticks to my yogurt like she always did. Who knew cinnamon sticks could become sacred?

I’m no stranger to grief and loss, but I’m also no stranger to the comfort of God. There’s something truly unique about encountering God in a state of pure grief.  When you’re before the Lord, broken into a million pieces with a million questions,  the Lord scoops you up and holds you as you weep. He holds you as you shout in anger, He holds you as you doubt His goodness, He holds you as you struggle to get through the day. I love knowing that God is big enough to handle me as a grieve. I don’t have to pretend everything is alright when it’s not. He knows already what I am feeling, so why try and hide it from him?

Two of the hardest days of my life were March 21st, and March 22. 3/21 and 3/22. My life verse is Lamentation 3:21-22. Before this verse, the author was just venting his anger, frustrations and just unmet expectations to the Lord. He was angry and wanting the Lord to know. Lamentations 3:21-23 says “But, this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed; for His mercies are made new every morning. Lord great is your faithfulness.”

In a way he’s saying “BUT, even though it all sucks now, even though I’m angry and upset and hurt and confused, I  have to remember something. I have to remember that none of these emotions will consume me, though I grieve, though I feel pain, though I feel broken I will not be consumed. Why? because of the Lord’s great love. Every morning is a new day, every morning he showers me in mercies. Every day the Lord is faithful. The Lord’s love is constant despite my inconsistencies.”

Though I face another period of grief, I know it will not break me. I’m holding on to 2 Cor 4:8-12, 16-18

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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