Of Loss and Mourning

FILE - In this Sunday, May 22, 2016 file photo, A Coptic Christian grieves during prayers for the departed, remembering the victims of Thursday's crash of EgyptAir flight 804, at Al-Boutrossiya Church, the main Coptic Cathedral complex, in Cairo, Egypt. Human remains retrieved from the crash site of EgyptAir Flight 804 suggest there was an explosion on board that may have brought down the aircraft in the east Mediterranean, a senior Egyptian forensics official said on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

For the second morning in a row, I woke up to the sound of my mama sitting in a dark kitchen, quietly sobbing into an untouched cup of coffee.

If there is one, singular and universal truth, it is that parents are not supposed to outlive their children.

For a mom, you remember through the years with such clarity the moment you first found out you were expecting. You remember funny details about the months leading up to the birth, scenes from labor and delivery, and that first moment your child is placed in your arms and you see this little person you created, face-to-face for the first time. It’s such an explosion of overwhelming love. How could you love somebody so much that you just met?

My only child is 29 years old, and every time he comes to visit, I’m instantly transported back to that first meeting.

Every time.

How can you lose something like that and not weep?

Late Friday afternoon, Mama was summoned to a hospital in a county an hour away. Something was wrong. They had her firstborn – my big brother, Clay – there, and that’s all she knew.

Clay was a supervisor at a medium security prison mill, teaching and overseeing a welding operation on prison grounds.

On his way home Friday, he had a massive heart attack.

It was sudden, swift, and he was gone.

Besides my parents, me, and two other brothers (Steve and Joey), Clay leaves behind two adult children (Jessica and Trey), and three grandchildren (Brinley, 12, Hayden, 9, and Candon, 4). Clay’s wife, Lisa, had passed away after a long illness 2 years ago, come this June. He and Lisa had been raising those grandchildren, each since they were babies (long, ugly story, but not an uncommon one, unfortunately). He had devoted himself to giving those grandkids the most stable life, possible.

He was doing an excellent job, too (if you overlook the fact that he was raising them to be NC State Wolfpack fans – Sorry, Clay)!

Clay was just a great guy. Everybody thought the world of him. And now my mama is crying. I’m crying. We’re all crying. I suspect there will be more days to come, where we attempt to live this new normal that doesn’t include him in our lives, but we struggle.

I’ve long questioned mourning and the whole grief process, but so much more since I became a redeemed believer in Christ.

It occurs to me that when we mourn, so often, it is because of what we’ve lost. We’ve lost the company of our loved ones. We’ve lost our “normal” and we must adjust.

If our loved ones who have left this mortal coil are redeemed, then it is only ourselves that mourn. Our loved ones, however, wouldn’t trade places with us for anything, and are quite unaware of our tears.

For the redeemed believer, passing from this life is not a passing, at all, but rather, moving to a new address, one where the mortgage is already paid. The full price was laid down thousands of years ago at Calvary by a Jewish carpenter.

We’re told so often in God’s Word of what awaits the believer. We’re given words of comfort and assurance.

1 Corinthians 15:53-55 AMP – 53 For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us that is capable of dying] must put on immortality [which is freedom from death]. 54 And when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the Scripture will be fulfilled that says, “Death is swallowed up in victory (vanquished forever). 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Make no mistake, grieving is how we who are left behind to endure this world for a little longer cope. It’s a natural part of being human, but its roots are quite selfish. We want what we want. We miss who we miss, but why would we pull our saved loved ones back to a world full of strife and turmoil, when, if they are redeemed, they’re now in the presence of God, unbound by sickness, debt, worry, or weakness?

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NIV – 13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”

Clay was a believer. So was his Lisa. They’re fine. They’re healthy. They’re together, and they’re home. They’re in indescribable peace and constant rejoicing before the Creator of all things, the star-breather, the mountain mover.

Yeah, this world is only a problem for those of us who still have to run out our race, but it is not our home. It never was. At most, it’s just the bumpy road we travel on the way to our eternity.

For those of us who will, we can take lessons from loss. No one is promised tomorrow, they say, and that is true. None of us expected Clay to be gone so suddenly. None of us could foresee this heartache, but we’re now thinking about the sureness of this life’s end. It’s real for us. It has touched us.

The hope is that for those who still haven’t picked up their ticket to salvation, that this will open their hearts to hear the calling of the Holy Spirit – Come, and be free. Unburden yourselves and be assured of an eternal joy. Have hope for your tomorrow, no matter what you face today. God is so faithful to keep His promises.

Come, be saved.

Revelation 21:4 AMP – and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be death; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish, or crying, or pain; for the [a]former order of things has passed away.”

I really loved my big brother. I’ll see him again.