Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Reflecting On A Death

Last week, a close friend died. He was 29. His last words were “God is good.” Yes, Stu. God is Good.

I certainly don’t corner the market on grieving here, but am surprised by how I am responding to our loss, his gain. This is a gain for Stu because he is not suffering and He has all of Jesus and a glorified body to boot. Just before going to the hospital he posted “Prayers for real answers and healing are appreciated.” This is loss for us because, well, that’s what death does. Death is a loser. Death gets nothing in the end, when its' all over.

I was sitting in a faculty meeting when my wife called. I texted, “in a meeting, call you later.” She texted right back to call immediately. I did and she gave me the news. Death has a peculiar characteristic striking those close to the departed with deafness and blindness. I heard her call, loved her, hung up, returned to my seat in the meeting and heard nothing and saw nothing for the rest of the morning. Or the rest of day for that matter. The fog rolled in as we mourned. 

Our dear sister, the wife. We had a wonderful visit Wednesday night with friends and Stu did his thing, sending us all into fits of laughter. That was one of his super-powers: bringing laughter. So we laughed--and cried a little--and laughed more. I’m sure I’m not the only one who could say this but as we reminisced and laughed, we could hear his voice as we quoted him. 

One can hear his thick white glasses plonk onto the table as he screwed up his mouth proclaiming, “I quit!” or nod in the context of argument, “that’s fair.” It is not difficult to imagine Bigfoot strolling into the cafeteria, looking for burgers. Burgers will never be the same now because I’m going to be looking toward the door . . . 

Oh, how the questions come. This is one feature of my grief that surprises me--the questions. I’m too old to have these kinds of questions. Questions like, “why do we say, ‘rest in peace’?” Perhaps we intend that we need peace ourselves because of the chaos of death. My mind begins to explore theological implications.

What do we mean by “rest”? Do we assume the soul is buried with the body, asleep? Are we fearful of some kind of un-rest that is different than any suffering faced by the now-dearly departed? If the soul is in an eternal state, and we know that soul is a peace with God, then the words are more comfort for us--that we can rest in peace now that his suffering is over. I'm not so sure we know what we mean when we say it.

I tried to journal some that day, but could not. When I opened my journal, a handmade card fell out made by our oldest daughter a number of years back. Inside, it reads, “I know that this week is going rough, but you can do anything! Rely on God! With him [sic] you can do anything! I love you, Daddy!” I love you, too, Baby. What an unexpected blessing from so long ago . . .

My beautiful, darling and incredibly swift and witty wife quoted MacBeth (Shakespeare) and I took personally, “Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bid it break.”  Ok, dear. I did. And having laughed a little, feel so much better now. He’s at peace with the Prince of Peace. God is Good.

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