Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Grieve with hope

Death has touched my life differently than some people.  I remember my mother getting the call about her mother's heart attack.  I remember my brother Jeff who came home for about two weeks before going back to the hospital with a heart problem.  After that, though, I'm not aware of death really touching my life again until I was in junior high and we got a call about my dog Herman dying in North Carolina.

I'm sure this is not the same commentary on death that my parents would give.  I remember the sobs as my mom heard the news of her mother's death.  As Jeff was not my son I can never really understand just how grievous the wound must have been for both my parents when he died.  At five years old I knew something was wrong, but my parents never failed to make sure that I was loved in spite of their pain, that they grieved when they could but took care of me so that I didn't unnecessarily miss their presence.

Here is where it gets a bit different.  My parents came to know the Lord because of my brother's death; first my mom and then my dad through her supernatural love.  If you ever have the chance to sit down with them and have them tell their story you'll be blessed by it.  The Father started with "mere" salvation and has wrought a miracle through my parents in the lives they've touched, not the least of which is a heritage of belief and salvation in their grandchildren.  The Father has touched people as far west as St. Louis, MO and as far south as Naples, FL here in the states.  God touched lives in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and India through my dad's jobs and my mother's faithfulness.  It started with Jeff.

The Lord has been incredibly gracious to me by allowing me the opportunity to see the purpose behind a loved one's death.  There are many areas in my life where the question "why" goes unanswered and I can't imagine a more painful and difficult unanswered "why" than that of a loved one's death.  All of this comes to mind as I don't have the "why" answered yet in two recent deaths.  I went to one funeral yesterday and I will take my family to the second one later this morning.  Both men were married, one had three children, and they were both younger than I.  One came to Rome to head up a Christian youth organization, while the other had a "come to Jesus" meeting with Jesus about three years ago and was noted for his desire to make sure everyone he met knew about his Savior.  Why, in the prime of life and doing His work, was now the time for them to go home?  Why are wives, parents, friends, children all left behind to live through the pain of their absence?

I have two brothers whose deaths gave me life.  Jeff got my parents' attention and Jesus saved them.  My parents got my attention and Jesus saved me.  My wife and I got our children's attention and Jesus saved them.  What I have to be careful about is the desire to alleviate pain (read that as avoid or not have to experience) to the exclusion of dealing with reality.  Said another way, I have the expectation, where it comes from I don't know, that I can wrap my mind around a legitimate reason for the pain such that I don't have to hurt.  It doesn't work that way today and it didn't work that way for Jesus.

I've got to tell you though, my heart is heavy and has been for the past few days.  CaringBridge was the source of one announcement and a text to my wife told of the second death.  Each of them came as a physical blow to me.  I felt the darkness press in, weighing me down, and making the simple act of breathing more difficult.  I wanted to hold Anna, find my children and hug them.  Honestly, I didn't want to take the time to find a "why" that would let Him off the hook for taking those two men.  When I hurt I lash out, just ask Anna.  She sits through my venomous tirades at her until I exhaust myself and we both realize its that I hurt, not that I'm angry.  I do the same thing with Him; I call Him all kind of names, rant and rave about the fairness of His will.  I hurt.

It never dawns on me until later, once my initial fight/flight calms down, that I don't want to fight Him and there is no where I can go away from His presence.  In His graciousness He sits through my upset at Him until I get to the point of hurt not anger.  When I get to the hurt He comes alongside and says, "I know."  He points me to the garden when He was betrayed.  Come to think of it, He was betrayed in two gardens.  He reminds me of the blind man that was born that way not because his parents sinned but so that He would bring glory to Himself through healing the man.  He walks that all the way up through history until He says, "Your brother Jeff is with me so that your parents would be ready for My call on their lives.  You'll be here one day because you heard the word from your parents.  My Son is here with Me getting His army ready to come back in power and judgment.  I think you're really going to like either riding with Him or rising to meet Him."

We got back from the second funeral a little while ago.  I'm still heavy, but lighter.  I'm still sad, but less sad.  I hurt, but I know from where the hurt comes; it's the pain caused by the effects of sin, not an unkind, unloving God who enjoys watching me squirm.  I've seen a wife stand singing and lift her hands in praise to the Savior who is holding her husband's hand.  I've heard a wife stand firm on the truth of God's character in the midst of her pain.  I haven't lost my spouse, surely their example of pointing to the cross can turn my gaze to Him.  Surely their faith and trust in their Father can strengthen mine.  For today I'll love Him as He is, not as my pain and the enemy would want me to see Him.  Today I'll live by faith because of who He is.


  1. What a very insightful article. You are right - God never promised that life would be pain-free, after all, it is often through our deepest pain that we truly begin to live. Though I'm not much of a country music fan, I am reminded of a song that Garth Brooks sang called "The Dance" where he sings "And now I'm glad I didn't know
    The way it all would end the way it all would go
    Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain - But I'd of had to miss the dance." Though I do disagree with the part that says "our lives are left to chance" - for I believe they are left to God. But, non-the-less the power of the song is he would have missed the pain if it (what ever you want to substitute here) had not happened - but would you have missed-out in all the things that it brought?
    Sometimes life doesn't make sense - I often wonder what "good" can come out of events where a drunk driver kills 4 members of 6 person family or when a young girl is ganged-raped by a bunch of thugs, or the lives of loved ones are snuffed out in the prime of their lives, particularly with children, or (as what recently happened to a friend of mine while going through clinicals in labor/delivery) a young mother (with a new born baby and 2 other young children) dies from internal hemorrhage. I would VERY much like to think that somehow, in someway, that something good and blessed DOES come from these type of events. But, I guess my limited and finite mind sometimes can't see it - therefore I am left to trust in the wisdom of God, whose mind is infinite. THAT is often hard to do.
    Thank you, Talley, for your honesty and openness in the article.

  2. I'll bet your parents are so grateful for you and YOUR testimony. They're just thankful to be a part of it. It's amazing how you can put feelings into words! Great job, again. Sorry for your pain and your friends' deaths. Remember, because of John 11, and their faith in Jesus, "they aren't dead, they just aren't here!"