A man I knew indirectly (though he was a friend of many close friends) died last night. He was my age, with two very young children and a young wife left behind. My heart aches for their family. As I read through some of the loving words posted in various places about him, I grew annoyed by our society's queasiness about death. We have so many euphemisms that do not actually speak truth: he went home, he is with Jesus, he passed away, etc. The widow will be spoken of as having "lost her husband," as though she misplaced him on her last grocery run. As if he were a set of keys.
The man died. The only thing that eases the feeling of loss and theft is knowing that he truly is in a better place. He suffered a great deal in his last months here on earth, and while his family is freed of watching him suffer, helpless, they now face the unenviable task of figuring out what life looks like when there is a raw gaping hole in it. In them.
Yes, he is dancing with Jesus. Yes, they will be reunited one day.
But now? Today? This first day that the sun cruelly rose without him here on the earth? His family misses him. There is a very real permanence to death, at least for those who still live. They never get to speak to him, never get to hear his voice, and not acknowledging the profundity of that pain does them a disservice as grieving Christians who believe in life and hope hereafter.
So to those friends who know E and love her and get to speak to her, be kind. Let her miss him. Do not say that he is in a better place. She knows, and that knowledge still doesn't remove the ache of the fact that the place is, for now, unreachable by her. Do not quote Romans 8:28 (and we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose). Tell her stories of her beloved. Share pictures she may not have of him. Cry with her as she yearns to see him again, even in a dream. Empathize with the sheer loneliness of a future without him. Do not feel the need to say anything. There will be times she'll need to be surrounded by the busy-ness of life in order to be comforted by the normalcy. There will be times she'll feel like it will never be normal again. There may be many tears over the new "normal." And God will be there with her, every step of the way, mourning with her even if she does as I did, shaking her fist at Him and asking why He didn't change things.
E'en for the dead, I will not bind my soul to grief. Death cannot long divide.
For is it not as though the rose that climbed my garden wall has blossomed on the other side?
Death does hide, but not divide.
You are but on Christ's other side!
You are with Christ, and Christ with me.
In Christ united still are we.