My old neighbour Ed, who lives in Melville, Sask., is blunt about death. I shared with him that someone I treasured as my good friend died recently. I quoted Ed, the German Proverb, “That the death of a friend is equivalent to the loss of a limb.”
“No point in getting bent out of shape about your friend’s death. Even as your best friend, you couldn’t prevent his death or have healed him. Suck it up, as death is inevitable and no one gets out of life alive,” Ed said unsympathetically.
Ed was right in that to die is as natural as being born. The Bible makes it clear that “All people are like grass, and their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall because the breath of the Lord blows on them.” (Isaiah 40:6-7)To be born and to die are both parts of God’s timing.
Mother Teresa said, “Death is nothing else but going home to God.” I think these words are comforting when we are grieving the death of a friend, mate, family member, etc. In one sense, everyone knows death is inevitable, but like taxes or a toothache, we try to ignore the truth that it will happen to others and ourselves eventually.
Death means a separation we cannot fix. We can attend our best friend’s funeral, but our best friend cannot be at our funeral. The death of a mate, parent, sibling or close friend hurts or is painful in its own awful way. It can leave us without words, in shock, and feeling a significant loss. Death changes those left without their loved ones. There is stress, perhaps some guilt that more might have been said or done. Loneliness, anger, emptiness, fear and tears can overwhelm those heartbroken by grief.
Grief is personal, and we cannot fix someone else’s grief. It is a process or an experience a person works through at their own pace. Those grieving need the kindness of others who allow them to express their feelings with acceptance. What can you say to those sorrowing over the death of a loved one? I suggest the words of Winnie the Pooh; “There is something you must always remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think.”
As Christians, we grieve in the truth that Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd who has lain down his life for us as sinners. “He is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to God the Father except through Jesus.” (John 14:6)
Jesus is our Good Shepherd in life and death. As we live, Jesus tends us like a shepherd.He gathers us in his arms and carries us close to his heart, especially when we are lost in grief and its power. He leads us gently as he restores our souls, calming our fears and sorrows.
Thankfully, we can hold our heads up in the death of a loved one for, “God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:28-29) The Lord is the everlasting God who increases the power of those grieving.