As your loved one nears the end of their life—when hunger fades, systems shut down, joy escapes—there comes an indescribable feeling of helplessness for the caretaker. It is like holding your breath as you wait for the cold splash that you know is coming. You are caught between the expectation of the sorrow of a parent’s death—and its relief. At the end of the pain-pleasure free fall is both an abyss of sorrow and a secret, guilt-laden nest of relief. This is what happens when we face the inevitable.
Dad finally passed away at 90, six weeks shy of his 65th wedding anniversary. Yet his funeral was closer to a celebration than a solemn function. People shared stories of how memorable dad was to them, and laughter was bountiful. Any tears were wistful rather than wrenching.
The pastor read from Psalm 23, and he shared an interesting insight that I had never noticed before about that scripture. At the beginning of the psalm, God is talked about in the third person: “The Lord is my shepherd...He leads me beside still waters.” But suddenly it shifts, and God is referred to in the second person: “You are with me...Your rod and staff, they comfort me.” The pastor noted that this shift takes places right after the part about being going through a terrible ordeal: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” It’s at these grueling times when God is most relational, and very present: “You are with me.”
This knowledge underscored what I already knew about God. He is with me. He is with you. God is especially close to the broken-hearted. Lean into that, and do not turn away from his embrace. Do not shut yourself away from His love.
Regardless of who you are, your life is eternal. Like it or not, you will go on forever. An afterlife awaits us all, and death is merely the speed bump between the beginning of your life and its continuation. Death is reason to celebrate if you have given yourself to Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. There’s a reason why Christians call death a “homegoing.” A person who is saved is going home to be with the Lord, and those of us who are left behind are glad—even envious.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
“The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:17-20)