On Oct. 16, I conducted one funeral and attended another.
The people were dramatically different, yet a lot alike. One was a retired civil service employee and rancher killed at the hands of a cruel perpetrator; the other was for a husband-and-wife ministry team who died in a highway accident. Each life was worth celebrating.
The rancher was 83, a widow who lived alone, yet left a grieving family and a myriad of friends from a life invested in Killeen. The other two, in their 60s, also left a grieving family, a mourning church family and people around the world who had received the blessing of ministry through their lives.
The death of loved ones and friends sparks an internal grief process that starts the journey of mourning. Grief and mourning are not the same. Grief is the internal thoughts and feeling we experience when loss occurs, while mourning is the outward expression of that grief. Faith does not preclude mourning. Jesus, at the grave of his friend Lazarus, wept (John 11:35). The “Journey through Grief” by Dr. Alan Wolfelt includes the following steps:
Acknowledging the reality of death.
Embracing the pain of the loss.
Remembering the person who died.
Developing a new self-identity.
Searching for meaning.
Receiving ongoing support from others
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). God is the “God of all comfort” (Corinthians 1:3), and the “Holy Spirit is the Comforter” (John 14:16). We have been given the privilege to “comfort one another” (2 Thessalonians 2:17).
The experience of the death of loved ones and friends raises many questions: Why? What were the circumstances? Who are the survivors? How can we minister to those who remain? But one question should be answered by each of us who grieve another’s death: Are we ready to die?
The Apostle Paul was. He wrote to his protege Timothy that his “time of departure had come” (2 Timothy 4:6). He was prepared with a firm commitment of faith. He knew “in who he believed, and was persuaded that (God) was able to guard what he had entrusted to Him” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Paul had a future confidence. He declared, “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but to all who have loved His appearing.”
He was ready for his departure. That word is a naval term meaning to weigh anchor and set sail. When a loved one dies, like a departing ship or plane, they disappear from sight, but not from existence. Someone said, “Death ends a life, but not a relationship.”
The Rev. Jimmy Towers is pastor of LifeWay Fellowship in Killeen.