“I am the resurrection and the life.”
Grief- something that expands beyond the confines of languages and cultures. A feeling that every soul on this earth feels at some point in their existence. We all may deal with it differently depending on our culture and who we are. But…Every. One. Grieves. And almost all of us are grieving someone or something right now.
The unexpected loss of my grandaddy this past week has opened my heart more to those grieving and mourning all over the world right now and how hard it is and will be.
How do you grieve from a socially acceptable six feet or in an empty room with a casket and only a handful of the ones you love? How do you decide who can come and who must stay home? What is grief like when a graveside is adorned with flowers and signs that read: Please keep 6 feet apart. We ask that you refrain from hugging and shaking hands. How do you grieve in a pocket of the US where grief is best eased by a spread of food (preferably fried chicken) and all the ones you love (close and distant) together hugging and holding hands?
How do my friends grieve in a relational culture where human contact and togetherness are so much more a part of the fabric of their being than here? How do you grieve the loss of jobs, weddings, graduations, etc when you feel guilty because others have lost so much more than you?
How do we grieve so much at one time in this weird season we are experiencing? How do I grieve the loss of someone I love when nothing in this time seems real or normal? The answer to all of these questions is: I don’t know. But there are so many things I am thankful for in this hard, yet very real time.
Thankful that my grandaddy didn’t die alone. That the two who mattered most to him were there when he drew his last breaths. That he was surrounded in love as he entered into rest. Which is a huge blessing in times like these. That while we must wait to celebrate his life fully with all who loved him at some unknown date, a handful of the ones who mattered most to him were there as he was lowered into the earth. Thankful for the ones who have surrounded me in love holding me up this time. I am thankful to be the granddaughter of a man whose faith and love flowed out of him as naturally as his breath did.
In the midst of Holy Week, I have been comforted and reminded in the depths of this pain and grief I feel that his death was not the end. It was the beginning. That all we are experiencing may batter and beat us, but will never defeat us. My favorite story in the New Testament is found in John 11. I love this story for so many reasons: Martha’s changed heart, Jesus’s humanity as He weeps over the loss of His friend, the hope this story brings for us all.
Everywhere Jesus went He was showing us more of Himself and more of God. I can only imagine what was going through His mind, as He comforted Martha with the news that her brother would rise again. You just wait Martha, you think you have seen what I am capable of now. My glory is about to get even bigger. He tells her “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will never die-ever. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25). Then later he says to her, right before He does what no man has ever done before nor could ever do unless He was fully man and fully God, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40)
Then He shows her and everybody watching exactly what He meant. Proving that He is the Son of the Living God, He raises a man back to life with HIS MERE WORDS…HIS WORDS. Proving that it is possible. Proving that He too will defeat death soon. Proving that, if we believe in Him, our life does not end when we are put in the ground.
You see while we are aching at this loss of my grandaddy, who meant so much to so many. There is true beauty in that while his body maybe in the ground, he is not. His faith has been turned to sight and oh how I’m a little jealous.
In these weeks, I have been reminded of a beautiful Acholi custom. The Last Burial Rites. Following a burial, when the family is done mourning and grieving everyone gathers together again, but this time in celebration of their love of the individual and the true gift their life was. There is no longer sadness but joy, singing, dancing, praises, and lots of food. We are all grieving something right now. The loss of our grandaddys and grandmamas, mothers and fathers, children and friends. The loss of jobs, weddings, graduations, life as we know it. But one day when this passes, we will celebrate. Celebrate the lives of our loved ones, the ones who stood on the front lines, all of the life events we’ve put off. Celebrate the faithfulness of the Lord, the strength we’ve found together during these trying times, and that we did not give in. One day full celebration will come.
But while we wait to celebrate fully, we can begin celebrating this Holy week. Celebrate our Savior and the fact that veil has been torn in two. Celebrate a God who is bigger than the grief and whatever else we are feeling in these hard times. A God who raises men from the ground with the sound of His voice. Who gently says, “I am the resurrection and the life” and who is inviting us to see and be a part of His glory every single day.
So who really was James Maryland Hall. He was a man who held fast to love, love of the Lord and love of family. A man who knew who held Him and wasn’t afraid to die. Who captured your heart from the moment you met him with his sweet kindness. That kind sweet spirit knew no stranger and gathered love everywhere he went. A man who slightly whistled when he talked and the cadence of his voice was kind of melodic like the true southern man he was. A man whose fashion sense was sharper than mine and even went to the grave dressed to the nines. A man who our hearts will deeply miss.
In these hard hard times for us all, I’ll leave you with these words from a song my granddaddy loved. They are something we can all cling to in these times:
Out on the open sea, by faith alone
Sight unknown; and yet His eyes were watching me
Though the ship is battered
The anchor holds
Though the sails are torn
I have fallen on my knees as I face the raging seas
The anchor holds in spite of the storm
We are ships battered in the night right now; but the anchor, whose steadfast love is better than life itself (Psalm 63:3), is as strong as ever. And He is gently, quietly whispering in these hard times, “I am the resurrection and the life…”
Kuc Obed Kedi. We need it now more than ever.