SIMPLE TRUTH: The faith venture of grief

Published 9:52 am Thursday, August 8, 2013

By Charles Christmas

Tomorrow, July 19, I celebrate the first anniversary of Louise’s death.

To claim that I know all about grief and can empathize with anyone in grief since I have experienced the death of my mother, father, four brothers, four sisters, an unborn son and my wife would be a display of hypocrisy and ignorance.

It would be like taking a two-week tour in China and then pretend I was an authority on the nation.

To propose that the grief journey will fit into identifiable stages may well be helpful to some, but this leaves many questions unanswered and many factors overlooked.

The grief journey is affected by many factors related to the deceased. Some of these are age, cause of death, length of the dying process, the nature and time span of the deceased’s relationship to you and the religious faith ingredient, only to list a few factors.

Then the bereft person’s journey involves the personal factors of age; religious faith; support persons, family or system; physical, spiritual and financial maturity and independence and openness to counsel. This is a limited list.

But this article is limited to a faith venture of grief in general and to my one year in particular.

Two sentences summarize my personal one-year venture. First, Louise left me, but she remained with me. Second, the Lord never left me at all.

She left me inasmuch as she left my arms and care and presence and went into the arms of Jesus, our Lord.

My cheek was touching hers in the intensive care unit as I felt her slip away. Then I immediately fell to my knees with my two daughters, skilled loving nurses, friend and chaplain to personally and vocally thank and praise the Lord for his wonderful grace on our 68-year journey that had come to an end, and for his anticipated grace for our new journey which had just begun.

After a celebration week of praise, thanksgiving, remembering and sharing with extended family, church family and friends, I was left alone.

No: Louise had left me, but she remained with me. And my Lord had never left me at all. Then, and through this continuing year, my love for her seems to be more precious than ever before.

In many ways she means more to me than ever before. All daily memories of her encourage, support, inspire, challenge and set an example for me—and sometimes rebuke and correct me. She is with our Lord, our Lord is with me; we are all together.

The most difficult time of grief for me was for about four weeks as I relived our 68-year journey of marriage and engagement again and again.

I remembered times when I, without doubt, could have made life happier and healthier for my darling. It primarily focused on time. Love is also spelled t-i-m-e. I could have, somehow, given her and my two children more time. And I wanted, so desperately, to have her back in her body so I could tell her out of a broken heart how sorry I was—if only, if only.

But God spoke clearly to me and said, “Son, Louise is dead, but I am not dead. You cannot speak to Louise, but you can speak to me. All failures toward your wife were actually failures toward me. You cannot confess your failures to your deceased wife, but you can confess them all to me, and I will forgive you and cleanse you from them all. And, you try to help others not make the same mistakes!” Well, that helped me very much.

Thus, I began one of the most exciting, purposeful and satisfying years of our life: the Lord Jesus, Louise and me. Louise is my cheerleader and I am moving forward, looking unto Jesus, the author, example, goal and finisher of our faith.

In last week’s initial “Faith Ventures” article, I submitted that there are three essentials for a faith venture: First, God is God of today. Second, God is able today. Third, he invites you to join him in the faith journey today. Believing this, you make the decision to act, risking all upon him.

But, concerning a bereavement experience, this is not something you decided to experience. But since or if or when you are faced with such, you will handle it best by allowing it to be the beginning of a faith venture.

If my sharing of my past year becomes any help at all to anyone, I will be extremely grateful to God.

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.