Yesterday (Thursday) I had occasion to minister at my Uncle John’s funeral. Back over 60 years ago, my dad was scheduled for a double date with Mariam Kauffman (eventually my mom) and her younger sister Laura. The fellow who was supposed to go with him as his wing man backed out last minute. My dad stopped on the way to the date and asked a fellow to join him for the double date. That was my Uncle John, he was married to my mom’s sister Laura for over 60 years. Because of these interesting circumstances, our families were very close as we were growing up. I am blessed to be her now so I could minister to my Aunt and my cousins. My Aunt wrote in her thank you how glad she was to have a Pastor in the family.
At the luncheon following the burial I was very struck by the fact that there were 8 of my cousins present. On my mom’s side there are 15 cousins. My mom and of her 4 siblings each had 3 children. I was so happy to see everyone that I got all of us together for a group picture. Everyone was having a good time, clowning around and enjoying each other’s company. But when I sat down I started to reflect on our families. There were 15 cousins, now there is only 14. My sister MaryAnne passed away in November of 2012. When my sister died, I was ministering in India. In fact in the 4 days after her death, I preached in 12 different churches and taught for a full day at Carmel Bible College in Eluhu, Andhra Pradesh. I didn’t really have time to process my own loss. Sometimes we can fill up our lives with enough activity that we even forget to grieve. But as I sat there at the luncheon with a wonderful plate of eggplant parm before me I was overtaken by a deep sense of sadness. I was missing my sister, she should’ve been there hamming it up with our cousins.
It’s funny how grief can creep up on us. A memory, a smell, a song, a family picture and all of a sudden we’re back to a deep sense of our own personal loss. Even as I prepared my Uncle John’s funeral I was struck by the amount of personal loss found in my NDC funeral file. It starts with my grandson Elijah (Feb. 2005), my dad (Dec. 2008), my sister (Nov. 2012) and now my uncle. Yet as a follower of Jesus Christ I am truly thankful for the hope I have. In Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians he reminds them of this hope when he writes, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope”, (4:13 NASB). You see because what Jesus has done on Calvary’s cross and in the resurrection we have a hope that sees beyond this life. I wasn’t able to be with my sister yesterday but I will get to spend eternity with her in heaven when this life is over, rejoicing in the presence of our great Savior who made it possible for us to be there. That’s a beautiful and wonderful thought and yet at times there’s still sadness. Aren’t you glad the Lord Jesus Christ meets us where we’re at and He’s invited us to come to Him with our deepest burdens and sorrows? He is a Savior who can meet our greatest needs and then in the end give us a glorious new beginning!
Trusting in the Good Shepherd,