Tag Archives: grief

Eschatology for a three-year-old

This past Saturday my family made a rather downcast trip to the cemetery to bury my grandfather-in-law. My daughter was full of thought provoking questions and I stumbled through the answers as honestly as I could. I had been planning on blogging about this conversation with my daughter but have decided to take a different course. My husband, his own mind full of thoughts brought on by Sofia’s line of questioning, so beautifully expressed himself in the following paragraphs, that I decided to share his words instead:

Terror truly beyond compare is by the mystery of death inspired; now the souls and the body  part, disjoined by resistless might, and their concord is broken; and the bond of nature which made them live and grow as one, now by the command of God is rent in two. Wherefore we now implore Your aid; grant your servant now departed rest, where the just that are Yours abide, O Bestower of Life and Friend of man. -Ancient Christian Funeral Hymn

We are all born into a life that is under the power and shadow of death from the moment we draw our first breath. Honestly, this thought is terrifying. Death has the power over our lives, and someone who has power over death has power over life.

As a father of a young girl, I’m amazed at how quickly she picked up on the concept. When she was two, I was horrified as she and another young friend squealed in delight as they meted out death to any ants unfortunate enough to wander near their feet. Now, at three, she has a magic wand that she pretends to kill people with… not even old enough to read or have heard about Harry Potter, but already enchanted by Avada Kedavra. How can I teach her that we are made in the image of a life-creating God, and ours is to give life, not take it?

The modern approach to dealing with the ultimate terror is either to chase after youth and beauty to attempt to put off the inevitable without acknowledging it, or to deny the horror by white-washing it in some Disney nonsense about the circle of life. The ancient world, I am given to understand, had a similar outlook. Then along came a band of Galilean fishermen who turned the world upside down by proclaiming a message that Death is trampled down by the death of a man named Jesus, and by this man’s resurrection Life is given to those in the tombs. These men didn’t sugar coat the terror of death, but proclaimed with joy that it has been defeated, and the Church continues to do likewise.

The gospels contain the stories of life and teaching of this God-man Jesus. Some of the stories that have most captivated my daughter are stories of death and resurrection. Jesus raised the little girl from the dead. Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. Jesus, after being beaten and crucified rose from the dead on the third day. “Was he dead? Did he die?” were questions she asked me over and over again as we read the Easter story, and she kept asking me to read “Jesus died on the cross”. Although I’m not sure she “gets it”, she knows that death is something big and powerful, and the story of the resurrection is significant.

My grandfather recently reposed in the Lord. Yesterday, we buried his ashes in the cemetery. How do you explain to a three year old about cremation? About what a funeral is all about? My beloved wife took the time to talk to her, to tell her that this inurnment was another part of the funeral. Sofia’s response (oh how I wish I could have heard it with my own ears!) brought a tear to my eye: “the part when he comes back to life?”.

My first response would have been to say no, that he’s dead. But then I caught myself. My daughter, after three short years of attending Sunday School and reading a children’s Bible, knows the Gospel, the Good News, better than I do. People who are with Jesus don’t stay dead. And so, in a first lesson in eschatology, Heather explained that Great Grandpa would come back to life when Jesus returns, and that He would give him a new body. I got her to help me first sprinkle then shovel some dirt into the grave. Later, as I tried to get her to stop using headstones as stepping stones, we explained that under each one was someone who had died, and that Jesus would raise them all to life when he returned.  We didn’t sugar-coat it, but we did our best to explain the hope we have because of our risen Lord.

How much of yesterday’s events did she get? She kept asking where Aunt Shirley’s bag was (the urn having been shrouded in a lovely satin bag), so I’m not sure she understood we buried it there, expecting it to sit unmoved until the end of this age. But I still suspect she gets the gospel better than I do, which could be why Christ said “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I think that the words of the Scriptures that are read in the service are for me, for my little faith, in order to remind me of what Sofia seems to believe so easily already.

“I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

“Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality; then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Amen. Come Lord Jesus.


Thank you Steve for sharing your beautiful and life-giving words.

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Appearences Deceive

This morning I attended “Sports Day” at my daughter’s preschool and brought Charlie along for the ride. While sitting at the playground afterwards, a lovely mom from the preschool came up to me. She complimented me on how “put together” the kids and I always are and how I  always have a big smile and radiate peace.

Her intentions were the sweetest and I appreciate her view of things but I had to laugh (as did my husband when I told him). How deceiving appearances can be (though I never thought I could possibly appear this way to anyone.). Would those other moms who I envy for how “with it” they appear be just as bemused as I was at this kind of interpretation?

Perhaps I smile so widely when dropping Sofia off because I can’t wait for a break from my challenging “threenager” and perhaps the same smile emerges when seeing her after a well needed breather because I do really love her. Perhaps I look put together because my hubby ends up late for work on preschool days in order to help his frazzled wife get the kid’s ready and allow her a moment to throw on some lipstick (he irons my clothes too!). And radiating peace, well that’s got to be Jesus in me because on my own I am anything but peaceful by nature.

The truth of the matter is that I’ve spent the last week and a half grieving my (Steve’s) grandfather’s passing along with the rest of his family. That I am emotionally exhausted from both experiencing my own grief and being surrounded by others grief. The truth is that minus a week or two of sweet, productive, DIY bliss, I spent the month and a half before grandpa’s passing gradually spiraling downwards into a pit of destructive self loathing, depression, and eventually stupor due to an attempt to adjust my medications.

The truth is that my house is a total mess, my husband is the one who keeps the kid’s bathed, and I often feel that I won’t be able to make it to bedtime if I have to answer the question “why” one more time.

This is the truth of my life. Is it the same for those I view as “super moms”?



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Acquainted with Grief

Lately my blog posts have focused more on DIY and design. I haven’t written any “from the heart” posts recently because what is currently on my heart is difficult to express and hard to think about.

About a month ago my husband came home with the news that a little boy from my daughter’s Sunday school class, at the precious age of two, died in his sleep.  My first reaction was disbelief, my second was a fierce anger towards God (which was already lingering under the surface due to some other life circumstances).

My husband has a hard time listening to me lashing out against God, accusing Him of being cruel rather than loving…so I phoned Pastor Chris, otherwise known to me as my big brother Topher. Since my brother became a Christian ten plus years ago he has been a source of comfort, knowledge, and understanding for me. He also recently published a book on suffering (Suffering With God) and I knew that he would be a good person to sound my angry grief off of.

As a pastor of a large church (not to mention a human being) he is no stranger to grief, or the anger and confusion that often accompanies it. To his credit, he did not try to comfort me with pat words, nor did he cringe away from my blasphemous tongue. What he did say made all the difference to me as I processed this sad news and acted like an off switch on my anger.

He reminded me that in these times it is not particularly helpful to focus on the fact that God is sovereign, but rather that he chose to send his son. During our lives we can never understand why God allows these things to happen therefor focusing on the “why” of things is not helpful. What is helpful is to look at Jesus.

As my brother writes it, “Christianity [is] the only theistic worldview in which the Creator God stepped into creation to suffer with us, for us, and ultimately to take all suffering away from us”(Suffering with God, pg.7). During his time on earth Jesus experienced grief. He wept over the loss of his friend Lazarus, even knowing that he would raise him back to life again, and he experienced anger over the destruction caused by death. And he did something about it. He died on the cross and declared victory over death and presented us with the great gift of eternal life.

So there is hope. Death is not the end for this little boy. He is safe in God’s loving arms and as they wait to meet their son again, his parents are embraced by a loving God who can understand the grief of losing a son.

I know all these things. I have known them from a young age. But I needed these truths to be spoken to me again. I needed to be reminded that while God is all powerful, He is not a distant and cold God. I see God’s heart through Jesus’ tears shed during his time on earth. I know that as I cry, as this boy’s family grieves, Jesus weeps with us. God knows the plans He has for this family, He is all powerful, but He also knows that we cannot understand these plans yet. And so He weeps with us in the present and gives hope to us for the future. This is what brings me comfort.

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