As we start the New Year many are thinking of a fresh start and a fresh beginning. I, on the other hand, am thinking of endings and of death. The passing of my grandfather, Billie Reeves, was by far the most emotionally trying moment of my life. I now truly understand something of the loss one feels when they lose someone they deeply love. It is a terrible and empty feeling, a vacuum that cannot be understood or satisfied. I often cry with Marie because we miss him so much. I have told her that when Papa died, I filled up with grief and don’t feel like I have emptied of it completely.
Connor likes to talk about Papa being in heaven. The other day he said, “Dad, I know that you are glad and sad that Papa is in heaven. But I’m just glad.” God bless my son and his sensitivity to the pain and reality around him. I love to hear his perspective on life more than almost any theologian or philosopher. The simplicity of his sentiment reminds me of the simplicity of God’s love and consolation. Papa is gone away from us, but he is with Christ; and Christ is right here.
The weekend that Papa left us will linger in my memory probably for the rest of my life. Every color seemed more brilliant, every fall tree proclaiming the cycle of life and death in its own way. Every smile and laugh had a hint of sorrow. Every sad song seemed even sadder. It was like every sense and emotion was tuned up as high as it would go.
I thought about two things more than anything else in those few days. The first was about life and accomplishments – legacy. Papa’s death made me want to evaluate what it is that I am supposed to be about. What lasting mark should I be leaving on this earth? Papa’s was his family. There is just a tremendous amount of love and care that exists between all of us. Our love and legacy is a testimony to the love and legacy of Papa. The challenge to me is to live my life in a very intentional way, being sure that I am faithful to my calling. The bible says it this way – “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-2
The second thing I thought about was how unnatural death is. God created us to have life and have it more abundantly. We brought death into this world through our shameful sin. It is our rebellion against God to which the curse of death is a result. Death happens because sin is an ever present reality. We have all worked for and earned death in our bodies. Christ is the only answer to the death we have earned for our souls.
If the Lord tarries, all of us will die. I will experience this loss again and it will only become more and more profound as the circle of death draws ever closer to my own life. While I stand on the fringes observing this terrible thief that robs us of the things that fill our lives with such joy, I am thankful that my Savior has given me an unquenchable joy that endures through the deepest valleys.
I will miss Papa so much and it will hurt for a long time, but through this pain Jesus has taught me once more that He is sufficient and that He is working His will through me. For that, I am glad.