Dealing with Death

What was your first encounter with death? An ominous and painful question for most of us.

Recently, our church family and several of our friends have been just pummeled in the face by the reality of death. It hurts when people you care about hurt.

I remember my mom taking us to funerals and graveside services often when we were kids. She had a number of older relatives that passed away. As a first grader, I remember going to the nursing home and seeing my great-grandma one more time before she died.

We were familiar with death, although it wasn’t terribly personal. I haven’t lost a parent, sibling, spouse, or child. I can only imagine that deep, searing pain. But, when I was 10, my best friend, Beth, was killed in a car crash, together with her mom and dad.

We had been released early from school related to the winter weather. My brother answered the phone and passed it along to my mom. The look on her face gave away that something was terribly wrong. That day, my friend and her parents went home to be with Jesus, and I started down a path of knowing and experiencing Jesus differently.

Oh, how I struggled and ached.

There are many layers to such a story, you all know this – you have your own stories too. In each of them, there is the pain and then the reality of how you survived. So, I’ll do my best to be brief… I didn’t know it at the time, but God had already prepared a new best friend for me, even before Beth died. In the years following her death, it became obvious to me that my mom had become my very best friend.

Mom taught me how to deal with death back then. Sadly, as the years have passed I’ve continued to use those lessons for myself and with others. Here are a few of the simple ways mom taught me to wade through the loss that death brings:

  1. Use music. The Bible, especially Psalms, is strewn with songs of pain and loss, but also hope. Mom taught me that music often portrays hope in the hurt better than words alone can. Back in the day, the song she played for me over and over was “Heaven” by Michael English. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with “It Is Not Death to Die” by Sovereign Grace Music.
  2. Talk, write, and remember. Mom spent a lot of time listening to me remember things about Beth. Things we did together, what she was like, things I wish I would have done to be a better friend. She enabled me to talk and process. With her encouragement, I wrote a lot about death early on. It seemed death touched school projects more than one might have thought normal, but mom didn’t think it odd. For me, it was healing therapy.
  3. Cry. God gave you tears for a reason. Jesus cried at the death of a friend, and he was God. My mom helped me deal with death by helping me wipe the tears. She could often tell just looking at me that I needed to cry, that there was a little more than just junior high girl emotions swirling around in me. She’d sit me on the couch with my stuffed kangaroo and blast “Heaven.” Then the tears would come. When the song was over, the world was far from right again, but things were better for a while.
  4. Be brave. Mom taught me to be brave in the face of death. Brave doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt or totally alter life as you knew it. It just means you keep on keeping on and help others as they hurt along the way. Then, brave meant being at the visitation and funeral for Beth and sharing about her with her out of town family who didn’t know her as well as we did. It meant starting to hug my friends because I had no memories of hugging her. It mean standing in the icy, December cold watching my dad help the men wrestle her casket onto the lowering mechanism at the grave as the biting wind blew. It meant love Jesus, trust Jesus and live well because He must not be through with me yet.
  5. Trust that He lives. Jesus died, once for all to bring us to God. Then, Jesus conquered death by coming back to life. Jesus said, “I have come (to die) that you might have life.” He said, “He who believes in me will not die.” Though we all die physically, Jesus made a way for us to live forever spiritually with him. How do we gain the promised life? Faith in Jesus Christ alone as the solution to our sin. Confess His as God and believe. That’s all. My mom fed me this truth from the Bible. It more than helped me deal with death here on earth. It gave me life eternally.

Some of you reading this hurt right now. Death has altered your world. I’m sorry. I would hug you, if I were there. May something here encourage you. You are loved by Jesus.