Friday, March 12, 2010

Saying, "Goodbye" to someone you love

This week, my daughter-in-law, Heather, had to say, "Goodbye" to her grandfather, Walter Hammack, who passed away on Monday.  It's hard to watch a family grieve the loss of someone whom they deeply love even when that family has a firm faith that they will see him again one day.

Pa-paw, as Heather called him, had been wrestling with cancer for a couple of years and had gone through treatment that brought the disease under control, at least temporarily. Heather and her Granny Hammack are both nurses and consequently had a better-than-average understanding of all that Pa-paw was struggling with and what the likely outcome would be.  I wonder if knowing that makes it harder or easier to accept his death? Although not necessarily a shock considering his health, his death was not something they might have expected just a couple of weeks before. 

At his funeral service, his pastor reminded us of two important points:
  • Christians are instructed in scripture not to grieve as "those who have no hope" but that doesn't means that we are not to grieve, at all.  It only means that we won't grieve for a lost loved one who is also a Christian in the same way that a non-Believer might because we have the assurance that this person is now united with Christ in Heaven and we will see them again someday.
  •  We are a soul with a earthly body rather than an earthly body with a soul.  The distinction is that the soul is who we are and the earthly body is only the vessel that housed the soul.  The soul existed before the earthly body and will exist after this earthly body is buried and gone.  It may seem like nothing more than semantics but I think this helps us to put life and death into an eternal perspective.

When all is said and done, grief is still painful.  It's painful to experience and it's even painful to watch.  But it's the way we process the transition from this life to the next and  that's something none of us can fully understand.  The pain is not forever and the tears will come less often, in time.  And one day,  Heather and Granny Hammack and others in the family will be united with Pa-paw again.

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