When death confronts us suddenly, unexpectedly, it’s as if the breath has been sucked from our lungs. For the last place you would ever have imagined being, a short week ago today, would be right here by the graveside of your loved one.
Such tragedy drives us far down into ourselves, for the pain of loss strikes deep in your heart. Some describe grief as if a piece of your heart has been wrenched away. It is not a journey we naturally, nor easily, take at the best of times. Sometimes the harsh reality of the sudden death of a loved one pulls us into the depths, and we have no choice but to face it.
The tears of pain sometimes surface. Those tears are outward signs of an inner anguish of the soul. But when we can take that journey, honestly, and surrender ourselves to those deep feelings, we may perhaps find something else in our hearts as well. Indeed we find in our hearts the very core of all that we are — the good and the bad.
The courage we show when we allow ourselves the tears of despair, renders a great gift. They say, tears of grief are reflections of the deep love you hold for your loved one. Pain and Love, sharing the same space within us. For, in the depths of our being, our heart, we not only grieve deeply, we also discover the gift of faith, hope and love.
We gather this day to remember your loved one, right here, right now — at his graveside. We celebrate and give thanks for the gift of his life. We remember and hold his memory close. As difficult and challenging as it is to do so today, alongside the deep feelings of grief and pain resonate also the longing and yearning for something more, something good beyond the bad, something hopeful beyond the endings.
From that well-spring deep within our hearts emerges the faith for us to say this day that your loved one now is free from his physical limitations. Your loved one is now free, as a bird in flight. It lifts my soul to hear how much he loved bird-watching. As he lived he was already internally practicing his spirituality, lifting as with the birds his soul towards the heavens. He also loved the natural beauty — the sanctuaries — of cottage living. So, we can say in faith and conviction that he enjoys today the fullness of life beyond the grave, without inhibition, totally free.
“But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). A popular hymn based on this passage suggests that the eagles’ wings will bear you up into the freedom, the love, the grace that is God’s kingdom forever. This is the promise. This is the reality faith accepts for your loved one today.
We are reminded again by this sudden death that the veil between life and death is indeed thin. We walk daily a breath away from the gate of death. So this reality confronts us and yes, maybe even frightens us.
But our faith announces that death has not the last word over us. Because of the resurrection of Christ, we also walk with the seed of faith deep within our hearts — as did your loved one — that eventually unity will overcome division, hope will vanquish despair, and joy will conquer sorrow; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So, I encourage you to make that journey within yourself daily, both to embrace the grieving process as a path to healing and wholeness, but also to discover therein the gift of faith. Be courageous to do so. It isn’t easy always. But I believe that journey undertaken in good faith will bear good fruit in your lives.