Friday, March 25, 2016

O, death, where is your sting?

Last Friday, I sat through the funeral service of a great man.  My husband's grandfather had fought a long battle with COPD and congestive heart failure, and his body was tired.  The previous two weeks, we had all been together for most of it, caring for him and loving on him and each other.  Those three weeks combined were and are a bit of a blur, but still very specific details stand out with such clarity.

Hunter and I started dating just shy of 13 years ago, and I have been through so much with his family.  Since we were so young, our families actually helped raise each other as well.  His grandparents have loved me so well since the very beginning.  They offer wisdom, work ethic, perseverance, stability, and loyalty--all doused in a load of humor.  Just really good people.

If this wasn't known already, it became very clear in the past few weeks.  Their five grandsons rose to the hard task of taking care of him in his last days; helping him be comfortable, moving him, talking with him, and being his strength as his dwindled.  It was also very clear as these five grandsons stood and bravely honored their PawPaw last week at his funeral service.  Each of them spoke of what he had taught them, what memories he had created with them, what he had provided for this family.  His reach on each of them was undeniable.  They also served as his pall bearers, carrying his body to its final resting place.  Nothing made PawPaw more happy or more proud than those boys.

A few moments from the service really stood out to me, aside from the boys' talks.
     --Kaplan loves to give fives, and it was always a way that he would interact with PawPaw (even with his oxygen on or in the hospital bed or if we hadn't seen him in a while...fives were always a sure fire connection).  Hunter was carrying him around at the funeral home that morning and he was dishing out the fives.  When they walked up to the casket, he still reached down and gave PawPaw a five.
     --my sister-in-law and I spent a lot of those weeks going through unbelievable amounts of pictures; I made a Shutterfly book and she made a video memorial for the service.  Seeing those pictures and the life in them was just amazing.  (Men--quit fussing about taking pictures!  Future generations will love them.)
     --If PawPaw got dressed up, he wore a blue suit; he was also buried in a blue suit.  So all the boys went out and bought blue blazers to wear to the service for him.  They looked so nice and I know PawPaw would have loved it.

PawPaw's boy dogs
     --We had congregational singing for the service and sang some of his and Grandmaw's favorites.  That big booming bass line on the front row (the grandsons) was enough to give me grins and goosebumps.
     --Because PawPaw was a Marine, they were present for the graveside service.  One played Taps, and two others folded and presented the flag to Grandmaw.  Such an honor and tribute.

     --When the pall bearers laid their boutonnieres on the casket, Hunter took Kaplan's off and handed it to him.  Seeing his tiny little hand place that small flower on PawPaw's casket was almost more than I could handle.

It was a hard day.  But it was a beautiful day.  Dignified and honorable, with just enough humor to feel like PawPaw.

Have you ever stood beside someone as they die--particularly someone who is losing a long battle?  I have, a few times now.  While it may sound a bit morbid or creepy to some, there is actually a strange peace that overtakes the moment.  There are tears, yes, and great, deep sadness.  But underlying all of that is a very present peace.  Their pain has stopped, their battle is done, the wait has ended.  Peace.

And do you know the reason I have felt that peace?  Because of death.

This Friday that we celebrate as "Good Friday" was actually so very terrible in it's happening.  It was cruel and bloody and loud and violent.  The only innocent being to walk this earth was nailed to a tree in absolute hate.  He gave his life's blood...for you and for me.  What an incredible gift.

You know how a lot of people will pick a word to focus on through the year?  Unfortunately, so far this year, death has chosen to be our word (believe me, it is not what I would ever choose).   Starting in December, we've had so many deaths...and most of them have been tragic.  It has been such a tough year--and it's only March...

But even amidst all of that pain and heartbreak and loss, an undeniable peace has been present for me.  Because of that tragic yet beautiful death so many years ago that we commemorate today, "Good Friday".

So how does death bring peace and why is today good?

Because three days later, he ROSE! 
Because that death defeated all death.  Because that death provides life eternal.  Because that death paved the way for creation's restoration.  Because that death allows all things to be made new.

Because sometimes in the darkest places, Christ's beautiful grace shines brightest.

So today is good.  And every day is good.  Because we serve a risen Redeemer.  O, death, where is your sting?

I pray you find comfort through your brokenness and hope in the Story.

xoxo, angie