Death & Thanksgiving

I read of a pastor who got a phone call from a woman who told him that “there had been a death.” She went on to say that her dog, Pepper, had accidentally gotten out of the fenced-in back yard and had been killed by a car.

Her children were very upset. She was upset for them, because they were foster care children, and losing a dog brought up all those feelings of abandonment that these children had already known all too often.

A day later at the pet cemetery, when all the prayers were said, the mom gave each child a rose. One by one they walked up to the edge of the grave and put a rose on top of the blanket wrapped around Pepper’s body.

When it came for little Jack’s turn, Jack placed the rose on Pepper and then looked up into the sky, and with tears streaming down his sad face, he cried out, “Thank you, God, for giving us Pepper as long as you did!”

“Thank you, God, for giving us Pepper as long as you did!” Pure gratitude. Pure thanksgiving.

It is Thanksgiving weekend, and the death of your beloved father, grandfather, great grandfather and friend may make you feel not very thankful at all this year.

In fact, the loss of someone we’ve loved leaves us feeling angry, hurt, profoundly at a loss. Considering the loss of your father is the third death of a close loved one this year, you have every right to put ‘thanksgiving’ on hold.

But, I suspect, little Jack grieving the death of his dog, Pepper, hints at something truthful. For we who knew and loved …. can also, I believe, express a feeling deep down in our hearts: “Thank you, God, for giving us Grampa, Dad, as long as you did!”

Thank you, God, for his life. Thank you God for his love. His humour. His good-natured love for friends and community. Thank you God, for his commitment to not only surviving but seeing the good in an otherwise difficult year o fhis life. We thank you, God, for giving us …. for as long as you did.

Like in the scripture from that obscure prophet in the Old Testament – Habakkuk: That though everything that could possibly go wrong HAS gone wrong, though the fig tree has not blossomed, even though the olive tree never developed, even though the flock and the herd have suffered and met tragedy …. YET I will rejoice. YET, I will rejoice.

Why? Even though everything has gone against us, our loved one has died, and we can never be the same without him, even though the worst has happened … we will give thanks. We will exult in the God of our salvation. Because God, the Lord, is our strength.

I appreciate very much what is written on the bottom of the obituary for your Dad. I don’t know where this quote comes from, but it is profound: “A dad is someone who wants to catch you before you fall but instead picks you up, brushes you off, and lets you try again.”

Perceptive. Loving. Truthful. You see, a full life is not about avoiding mishaps and mistakes. If our Dad always protected us from getting hurt (which is what dads want to do, nonetheless), we would never learn how to live. A good life is not descriptive of somehow being able to deny and hide yourself from risk, from failure and from disappointment. The greatest successes come from the greatest failures. Wise people know this.

I believe your loving father knew this. If that statement you chose even comes close to describing him – then indeed he was wise: He knew, even for himself, life was more than the down times. Each of us has to learn how get up after we fall.

This description of a “Dad” is godly. I’m sure God WANTS to catch us each time we fall. I don’t believe God WANTS bad things to happen to us.

But God is sure there to shed a tear when you do fall. God is sure there to pick you up, brush you off, and let you try again at life.

It’s about what you do after you fall. It’s how you navigate and live through (not deny) this grief during this most difficult year.

And, you have each other. You can help each other get back up. You don’t have your father to help ‘pick you up’ this time. But now you have each other, to help you through this time.

This is a most profound expression of God’s grace. In the love of God we find strength to carry on. In the compassion shared amongst yourselves you will find courage to face tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. And so, we can say: In God we are able to give thanks. Today we are here to say to God, “The Lord is our strength, yet we will rejoice; thank you, God, for giving us Dad for as long as you did!”

The Life of Christ and the Death of a Loved One, p.101-102

2 thoughts on “Death & Thanksgiving

  1. Well done, my friend. Difficult time for many people, but there are always things for which to be grateful. I am, as I ‘celebrate’ alone, quietly, with my cats and dogs, with friends close, even if we don’t feast together.

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