From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8)
Our son-in-law, Justin, has a wonderful grandfather named Ken. Although I’ve only known Ken a few years, and didn’t have many opportunities to spend time with him, I feel like I know him well. Ken looks and acts a great deal like my late father-in-law. The minute I met Ken I felt like I’ve known him all my life. It was almost like I had my father-in-law back. I had always felt ripped off because my father-in-law died six months after Jill and I married. Now, just a couple years after our daughter married, Ken is dying. He entered hospice and will be passing away soon.
It has made me think about how we learn to honor our loved ones, while we experience grief. It is important to talk about the person you are grieving, with people who are also grieving. Along with inviting God into this transitional moment of life eternal, funerals serve a number of other functions.
One, it gives us the opportunity to acknowledge the reality of death. In our society, we are eager to deny death’s certitude. We often ignore the experience and wisdom of our elderly. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on creams, lotions, and surgery to look younger, as if we can remain young indefinitely. The one common denominator between all people is death.
Two, the funeral provides closure, necessary for people to move forward in a healthy manner. Grief takes many forms and the funeral ritual brings together grief’s many forms and creates a healthy place to address to mourn, share, and receive support.
Finally, the funeral is an avenue to search for meaning. Depending on how and when a loved one dies, meaning is found along different roads. Meaning is found in a different way when the loved one is an infant, then it is for dear Ken. Everything from the funeral sermon, to the prayers and music, to the luncheon afterward, provides opportunities to experience God’s Spirit, and Divine wisdom.
The next time you are forced to endure a time of suffering, loss, and grief, do not shy away from the funeral experience. Embrace it, knowing that God’s Spirit brings comfort and support. It also provides a public means of honoring the one we love. Encourage others to face death, and not follow society’s denials. When we embrace the grieving process, our loved one is honored and healing takes place. Please pray for my extended family as we walk through this transition in life eternal.