Had it not been for the joy of Easter still lingering in our home, we might have not been able to get back up for some time. The hit we received the morning after Easter Sunday was a gut punch. My father-in-law had been on the decline for a while, ever since the love of his life had died 10 years earlier and left us all stunned and devastated. We had each other and help from friends and family when she left us, but he felt utterly alone, and nothing seemed to help him heal. After a long battle with several maladies he was put on comfort care about 10 days before, and this day after Easter, he was gone within an hour of our being told he was preparing to depart this world.
As we scrambled to make arrangements for our trip north, we felt the weight of the situation which had begun almost 10 years earlier, and yet somehow a strange sense of closure knowing that the two who had built a beautiful family together and had been parted by death, were now reconciled in the glory of God’s salvation. Our dear pastor from our previous parish, and a dear member of our family still, was able to annoint my father-in-law a week before, when my husband was present with his sweet sister, and both exclaimed of the indescribable outcome of peace from that annointing. They truly felt the presence of peace and hope for their dad, and knew that God was in control.
I had been working on a photo project for the past two weeks that included digging through many photos and collecting more from my sister-in-law. She had spent a great deal of time scanning and sending photos of the grandparents and their sweet grandchildren and thanks to her, I had a nice collection together. I offered to provide some of these for the funeral, and ended up putting together a slide show, which was indescribably therapeutic; one photo after another of a smiling man and his family, enjoying life, and truly happy.
When we got to dinner the night before the visiting hours with our dear ones, I was able to share how I felt that anyone looking at his life would not as much remember his 10 years of grief, but the abundance of joy the two of them shared as their 10 grandchildren came into the world, surrounding them on the couch, the floor, the Christmas tree, etc. All I could see were these two beautiful grand-faces smiling and babies everywhere, like I imagine Heaven will be someday.
I was explaining how on the drive up north, Cirque wanted to play “Would You Rather…?”, a game where you ask people about making a difficult decision from two possible options and then discuss. I explained that her dad and I were already playing the game in a way, while we were discussing the fact that his parents lives were shorter than most (at least his mother) and though shorter, they were, in my opinion, more intensely packed with love…many grandchildren around them like jewels in their crowns. Maybe some at the funeral would feel sorry for my husband, his brother and sister, but my prayer was that many would say “Wow, look at the love around them. How rich they were.” It had been a good, blessed and full life. I hoped others looked at it that way.
Later my brother-in-law came to me and said he was in agreement with what I said, that he too felt that this was an opportunity to change the darkness of the situation and what others may be feeling at the funeral. We all had a moment to shine for God, to be a light for the world. When people came to see the family tomorrow night, we would share the love of Christ, and the hope in the Lord that sustains us all. Something came alive in me at that moment. If you look at the concept of agreement in scripture, you will notice that the concept is one of power together. Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” In other words, if you are asking the Lord for something together, in His name, and especially with the intention of bringing glory to Him and to do His will, He will be with you. The power of God had then become a part of our grief and glorified it to become a powerful instrument to draw souls into Him. Not only did we agree, it was sealed with the Holy Spirit, and we decided to bring this powerful moment to the spouses and kids, and they too would be a part of God’s plan for light, and therefore annointed in hope and peace.
Then next day, we gathered together, all six adults and 10 children, in a huddle where Peter (my new name for my brother-in-law who is “the rock” of the family and has a beautiful way of praying with the Holy Spirit) called on Jesus to make us worthy to shine for him, to be a light in this darkness; that as we proceed to honor my father-in-law, we would sincerely serve God with our hearts, full of grief as they were, in humility and hope.
All through the weekend, moments of tears and sadness, hope and love, flowed through all of us. We did our best to support everyone else around us and each other at the same time. As my husband, his sister, and brother stood looking over their dad at the visiting hours the night before the funeral, they held fast to each other. Quiet sobs escaped as their shoulders shook, all of us watching with admiration, sorrow and love. They held tight and close to one another, all that they had left in the world seemingly. Yet anyone who watched what happened next, and the moment after that and so on, saw more; a powerful witness of love, strength in faith, and hope. My heart burst for love of them, and for my God, who draws everything to Himself in a woven tapestry of meaning with a divine dimension that cannot be tangible to anyone, but for faith.
This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
In memory of Bob and Paule’; may perpetual light shine upon them.