Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
~ Romans 6: 4
Death sucks. There, I said it.
Death hurts and it’s messy and ugly and painful, so utterly painful. Death isn’t supposed to be easy.
As a pastor, I have sat at too many bedsides with grieving families as their loved one entered new life. I have led memorial services and funerals, co-leading with my colleague and also flying solo. I’ve stood at caskets and said prayers of comfort and hugged and even cried as I reminded everyone about God’s love and promise of new life.
As a pastor, I’m supposed to be the one with the words of comfort. I’m supposed to be the face of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the voice of faith. It’s never easy to tell someone their loved one is in a better place, in a new life with God. To remind the grieving that death isn’t the end, but the beginning to something even better. I’m called in to be a presence of God in the darkest of moments. It’s truly a blessing and also one I struggle with.
Then, there’s me as a person (because pastors are in fact human). I have lost grandparents and friends over the years. Each time sinking me into a dark place. As strong as I am as a pastor for others, I find little comfort from fellow clergy who tell me the same words I say to people during those times of loss. I find little comfort in people who tell me they are there for me or ask if I need anything. I find little comfort in people reminding me about new life in Christ, even though I know that’s what I believe. Bleh.
You know what I need in those moments? Those moments I’m grieving? To be alone. To grieve on my own. To yell and be angry at God because even though I know what Scripture tells me, even though I know my loved one is going to a better place, I want them here. And if you can’t let me be alone to grieve on my own, then find a bottle of rum and help me drink.
My faith tells me one thing. My theology tells me the same thing.
My heart tells me otherwise.
I think the hardest part about death is knowing that person is no longer with us here. Yes, they are going to a new life. Yes, that place is grand. Call it heaven or whatever, it will be spectacular. But it’s the losing of the human, physical form that’s the hardest for us the living. All that’s left for us is memories. Though, let’s be honest, what we really want is to sit and have coffee with that person, to laugh with them, to hear their voice and be with the person we miss.
One day we will be reunited with those who have gone on to new life. I have no idea what the afterlife will be like – fluffy clouds or a projection of what life was like on earth. No clue. Until that day, all I or any of us can do is grieve and move on, cherishing the moments on earth we do have and celebrate knowing that one day we will enter a new life.
It sucks to lose someone we love, to know they will never be physically here with us again.
Whatever our faith tells us, whatever our head or our hearts tells us, death is a part of life. And it hurts.
God is with us in those darkest of moments when it feels as if we can’t go on living, when the pain of losing someone we love hurts so much. God reminds us that there is new life.
And that’s about the only comfort I can handle in those dark moments.
God, be with us in the darkest of human moments. Help us to grieve and allow us to grieve in what is fitting for us. Allow us to yell and scream, cry and sink into despair. But also be with us, lifting us and reminding us that death isn’t the end – it’s the beginning. It may be difficult for us to hear, but constantly remind us that death’s sting is but a moment. New life in Christ, in You, remains forever. Amen.