Are you ready for your death? My wife and I have put our trust in Christ. We also have our will, end of life instructions and financial papers in place, and I even have an outline for my funeral sketched out. Hint: I’ll be the one in the casket with the fork in my hands as I head to a better place and a great banquet (and His banner over me is love).
As a campus minister and chaplain who has served on many public and private colleges and universities over three decades, I have dealt with the death of folks associated with the Academy. I also have served as a resource to local churches and parishioners by conducting hospital visits, crisis interventions, and funerals.
I recall visiting funeral homes in the span of several weeks. One visit was with a family celebrating the homegoing of their eighty-six year old Christian matriarch, who had suffered long and desired to be with her Lord and her recently departed husband. Yes, there were many tears (and tissues being shared) along with silence and deep joy because Grandma was finally where she longed to be. Sure, the family left behind was grieving but there was more relief than sense of loss. Her citizenship had been in heaven, she finished her race and she kept the faith. What a legacy to cherish and remember. Conversations around the funeral home, the gravesite, and later “Grammy’s” home were filled with good-hearted laughter as stories were told from generations past. Everyone seemed to recognize that it was time for her to “go home.”
Read John 11.
The other visit concerned a family who lost their twenty year-old daughter in a drunk driving accident around campus. This family was full of Christian people, yet the tone of the funeral home was decidedly different – it was somber. The silence of the room was palpable and reflected the shock everyone felt. Yes, she too, had “gone home” to be with her Lord – but it seemed so unreal, so untimely, so wrong. Her death at such a young age did not seem right, and we all cried tears in the stillness, trying to make sense out of it.
I remember something a dad wrote and shared at a similar funeral years ago after losing his young daughter. He wrote, “The death of my only child has redefined my trust as never before. Because of Susan’s death, her life is more cherished. The poems and songs she wrote, the smile she carried throughout life, the memories of her swinging on the tire hanging from the backyard tree, the times she asked to hear a story before bed time – all these and many more are markers and reminders of the gratefulness her mother and I have for God giving her to us. It was a sacred trust that we are humbled to have experienced. We decided God must have a greater need for Susan in heaven than down here. And she is home now. Free! When we laid her body to rest, I never felt more on holy ground, never more sure of heaven…of the gospel’s power…and never more aware of the anchor that Jesus truly is. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Death is an enemy only to those who are willingly dead to God and alive to themselves.”
How would you be remembered if God took your life tomorrow? Do you trust the Lord not only with your life, but your death? Jesus said, “Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” Think theologically. We never die in Christ, because there is life even in death.
Love is a verb,
©2014 by Mike Olejarz