On Grief

My cousin passed away yesterday.  Even though we knew it was coming, even though we had the opportunity to see him when we were in the States last October, this still hit me harder than I expected.

I just felt a connection to Dave, I don’t really know why.  It wasn’t really the kind of thing you talked about, but it was there.

It could be my earliest memories of him, at Grandma & Grandpa’s house.  When Dave would drive up, someone would always call out, “Dave and Vonja are here!”  You could just tell everyone was happy they had arrived, so of course, you were, too.

Perhaps it was that he was my oldest cousin, a grown man with a wife (a beautiful wife, too, which even little kids think is a good idea :)).  He was one of the adults, while I was a little kid, but he never made me feel beneath him.  Everyone in our extended family treated us little ones well, but with Dave and Vonja it was somehow different.

Perhaps it was that they always seemed happy, happy to see us, but mainly just happy, they always seemed to “have it together.”  Perhaps it was that they were just genuinely nice people, and you didn’t feel like they were trying to be nice, they just were.

Perhaps it was that his dad, my Uncle “Ted”, was a hero who died in the Pacific Theatre.  That kind of thing is important to young boys (even when we get older).  Perhaps it was that my older brother, who died in infancy, bore that same name, a name we eventually gave to our son Theron.

Maybe it was none of those things.  Sometimes, there are people who you just like, that you just connect with, for no real reason.  Maybe it was that, and all of those other things, put together.  Who can say how and why it is that we feel the way we do about another person?

Grief is a tribute of honour to the loved one that is gone.

There is nothing wrong with grief.  If we didn’t love, if we didn’t value the person who is gone, we wouldn’t grieve.  It isn’t the grief that is bad, it is the loss that is bad.  Grief is an honourable and honouring response to loss.  I’ve said this many times to others, and now it is my turn.

God sends grief to teach us when loss comes, for it brings many valuable lessons:

  • To value human life and human love
  • To heighten our awareness of human frailty, including our own
  • To hate sin, the first cause of death and sorrow in God’s perfectly created world
  • To remind us of the need to prepare for the next life
  • To rejoice in the hope of a world to come where there is no grief or sorrow
  • To teach us the value of comfort as we encounter others who grieve

Grief is a good and powerful teacher, when loss comes into our life.  When we live the Christian life as the Bible teaches, we accept (and even embrace) grief as a teacher, but it will not rule us, for our God is the God of all comfort.  In Christ, we have a hope reserved in a safe place which grief can never touch, guaranteed by the God who (for now) gives grief, but has promised eternal victory over every cause of grief.

I Peter 1:3-5

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

 

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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6 Responses to On Grief

  1. Ruth Gleason says:

    I needed these reminders this morning. What comfort there is in the Word of God and its unchanging truths. All that you said about Dave is what I wish I could have said. I am sending this on to Vonja and the family.

  2. Rita Camp says:

    One of the unique things about Dave was his empathy with people. As you testified, he was great with kids…a career schoolteacher. He also had great empathy for older folks. He stayed with Aunt Lorraine in the hospital (he said no one should die alone) and he, Vonja, and Cousin Merry were with her at the end. He was also at my dad’s bedside when he passed into Glory.

    He was a great comfort to Grandma & Grandpa after the death of Uncle “Ted.” As Vonja said, after the loss of Ted (the oldest son), Dave became the “youngest son” of the family. We have been blessed to have had him in our lives, and he will be greatly missed!

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hi, Rita. Thank you for the great comment.

      I wish I’d had more time with him, and with you, and others. Life moves us on, but we’re privileged to live in a time when travel is easy, so at least we get those quick visits now and again. I almost didn’t come last year, but I’ll always be thankful I did.

      Yes, we were blessed, and still are. Now, we learn anew grief’s lessons, but remembering those blessings makes it easier.

  3. Chip says:

    Sorry for you loss, Jon. God is good. You didn’t mention whether your cousin was a professing Christian, but I hope he was.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Thank you, Chip.

      Dave was raised in a family where Christian principles guided life (far more than among many who make clear professions of faith), but also where personal faith was rarely discussed, even by those who at times would make very clear statements of faith in Christ.

      As his illness progressed, the things Dave wrote made it obvious he was thinking about faith a lot. He told me last October, “I’ve really appreciated some of your blogs” — I didn’t know he was reading anything I was writing.

      We know from Scripture that the only way to salvation is by faith in what Christ did for us on the cross. Only God knows the heart of anyone. I can’t tell the exact nature of Dave’s faith, any more than I can the faith of others who may talk faith more, but live lives that reflect it less. Dave’s life, as much as I knew it, was consistent with Scripture. As always, we leave it with the Lord — “He doeth all things well.”.

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