A Grief Considered


Personally, I’m no stranger to grief. In my forty plus years of ministry, I’ve seen more than my share of it in the lives of people as different from one another as possible. From some who throw themselves on top of caskets to those who stoically endure without so much as a single tear, grief, though having basic similarities, is unique to the one going through it.

Having recently said goodbye to the first sibling to pass in our family, along with being called to conduct her memorial service, I want to share some of the thoughts and feelings I’ve experienced over the past week in the hope that it may, in some way, encourage us all to live a life pleasing to God and one to be remembered in a positive light. Four things prominently stand out as I consider the grief experienced by the death of my wife’s sister, Valerie.

1. Gratitude

I am so thankful to have known her. Looking back over the years, remembering our interactions, and seeing how those times developed and grew our faith together, brings a profound sense of gratitude to God. While not all of those times were pleasant--and some were extremely difficult and painful--Judith and I witnessed God’s grace in her life and were privileged to walk some of that path with her. Those hard times made us all better, brought us closer, and even as I consider them again, gratitude swells.

2. Comfort

Christianity offers comfort like no other religion. No stoicism or denial here, only an inner peace and assurance that comes from knowing you really haven’t lost anything if you know where it is. The very word “comfort” literally means “with strength.” There is in knowing Christ an inner strength that holds us together and keeps the demons of despair at bay. We grieve, but not as those who have no hope. As much as we will miss Valerie, we are confident that we will see her again. I am sorry for those who lack this most precious resource.

3. Joy

Though this is closely related to my previous point, there is also a joy distinct from comfort. It is the thrill of knowing that death reunites us with those who’ve gone before us. Valerie’s husband, Tom, died suddenly in 2001, just two weeks after 9-11. Ever since, her yearning for him never slackened. And now finally, they’re together again. They’ve entered a new phase of relationship, one that’s complete and perfect, untainted by sin, and best of all, unending.

4. Challenge

Listening to the eulogies at Valerie’s memorial reminded me of the qualities that cause people to be well-remembered. Two things were said about her that challenge me to strive for those traits: First, she was remembered for being fun! Those who knew and loved her are blessed with memories of laughter, and in many cases, to the point of tears! Her infectious laugh infused the atmosphere with a giddy joy.

But Valerie was also remembered for her generosity, and it was the quality most repeated in her eulogies. She possessed this wonderful gift of giving, and many of us were the recipients. Greg, her business partner, made the statement, “You cannot out give God, but Valerie tried.” It’s been said that one day all we’ll have is what we’ve given. If that’s true then our dear departed sister is truly rich. Valerie understood that she was a steward and that all we have is God’s, placed in our hands to use for him and to bless others. Her life challenges me to follow that example.

Four things prominently stand out as I consider the grief experienced by the death of loved ones.