Grieving – Two-Year Milestone

Thirty-Two years we were married and two years ago today my dear Sue passed peacefully into Eternal Glory and into the presence of her Saviour, The Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m thankful over these two years for the support of family and friends, and for the Church where I’m now a member.

The Lord has been very wonderful to me and by His marvellous Grace I raise my Ebenezer and say ‘Hitherto has The Lord helped me’. Doctrine, and by that I mean theology, can often seem dry and aloof. As A. W. Tozer said ‘Doctrine is the highway that leads to God’. My experience, especially over these last two years, is that doctrine is not only alive and vibrant but does indeed lead to God. When I read a Confession of Faith it’s full of God and overflowing with His majesty and grace to sinners. I’ve also found that God brings us through trials in order for us to see that. I thought I knew stuff about God and The Lord Jesus but I realise now I was only scratching the surface.

Agnostics and atheists may well think we are delusional and might even feel a bit sorry for us Christians. The reality is they are the ones that are deluded. Often deluded into worshipping themselves and what could be more delusional than that! While all the time The Lord says ‘look unto me all the ends of the earth and be saved’. What an offer!! Only a fool would turn that down.

Holding someone’s hand while they slip away into eternity isn’t something to be taken lightly. But I knew exactly to where Sue gently slipped away. I don’t know the when or where or means by which I shall enter eternity. But enter it I will. And so will you. Sue entered eternity with a Saviour who is Mighty to Save, as will I, no matter the details. You will enter eternity, but will you die with a Saviour. Will Jesus, the only Saviour for sinners, be your Saviour. O I pray He will be.

A Grief Continued

I was told the Christian Bookshop (Michael Keen) had ordered several copies of a book on grieving by Al Martin, a well-known preacher in Reformed Baptist circles. Michael very kindly handed me a copy yesterday morning after the service. Opening the book on the way back to the car I began to read.

The very first paragraph is gripping and took me immediately to the bedside of Sue as she breathed her last. To say I began to hyperventilate is a slight exaggeration but it’s a moment I have relived over and over and over again. It’s not nice. After nearly 11 months the emotions still come back with great vividness and force. The agony and the grief that wells up in the depths of my being are there in that first paragraph of  the book. It’s very obvious to me that Pastor Martin is reliving that moment. I know he has experienced this and I’m gripped, wanting to read what this man has to say.

As I walked racing through my mind was the thought to ‘isolate, isolate, isolate’. I felt the need to get away from people. The reality is this is not a good thing. Isolation is different from solitude. I like the solitude of staring out to sea. We all need solitude from time to time. It’s when our emotions run away from us like a freight train that we are to ‘take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ’. It isn’t easy when our emotions are SCREAMING to us one thing, but then seek to do the very opposite. Staying away from Church and people is understandable and sometimes can be helpful, but long-term is destructive and unhelpful. The thought of isolation needs to be brought into obedience. I often fail miserably.

Back to the book. I dipped into future chapters so I ‘might’ Blog through the book. There is one particular chapter in which he will deal with some very heavy theology that I too have had to work through. Pastor Martin wrote it for his own understanding and to help others. I’ll be blogging (if I do), as before, for the same reasons. So I trust even this brief post will have been helpful.

Just one further note. His book is for Christians when their loved ones have died ‘in Christ’. Like me, the loved one for Al Martin was his dear wife. However, should any non-believers come across the book they will be pointed to the God of all comfort and to The Lord Jesus Christ ‘whom to know is life eternal’. The Gospel is here.

I have only just started to read this book, but already, I have read enough to highly recommend it.

 

Diary of a Grieving Christian – 8 (Six Month Update)

2012-03-31 11.55.12I have written some brief book reviews on bereavement and a few other posts but this is the first ‘Grieving Update’ since 21st December 2015. Has it really been that long? Quite a bit has happened and I got heavily sidetracked into Facebooking.

Today is 6 months since Sue departed for Glory. The ‘literature’ suggests 6 months is significant. Because of that ‘suggestion’ I’ve no idea if it really is significant or whether society has encouraged me to think that way. But either way, I believe it might be appropriate to bring some thoughts to you.

I don’t write with any sense of triumphalism. As a friend said when I told him of Sue’s departure ‘Sue has triumphed, for her the battle is over, but we are still in the battle’. We do triumph for sure, but I’m not triumphalistic. I think even in our Reformed circles there’s a desire to be triumphalistic. We cover it up better. Being scared of dying as a believer doesn’t sell in the heartland. It doesn’t preach so well does it? And the unsaid expected triumphal death irritated me. I’m thankful for a Saviour that understands so well. Sue can now bless the hand that guided and the heart that planned. Dear Sue. It wasn’t easy for her to die and to leave us. We talked one-on-one as you do. She knew it wasn’t easy for me to watch her go. She knew it wasn’t going to be easy for me to live without her either. She really did know me so well.

Six months down the line, it’s unbelievably hard. Harder than I could ever have imagined! Everyone is so different, and those differences give rise to a myriad of variables. So don’t expect your situation to be a ‘carbon copy’ of mine, or of anyone else’s either. I was recently over in Northern Ireland to hear Dr James White speak and we sang a hymn that spoke of raising our Ebenezer. He gave a brief explanation of what raising an Ebenezer meant. I said to myself, ‘O yes, Dr White, I know what an Ebenezer is’. I’ve been raising one regularly for the last year or so.

I’ve learnt a lot. I don’t try and help get God off the hook by using some Biblical hocus pocus. God is Sovereign or He is no God at all. That means He knew Sue would die on that very day. He knew about me too and how I would respond – not always very well in my private moments. More than that, He decreed it.

To understand The Cross and suffering I think in some way you need to understand marriage and what it represents. I often find my emotions are on the edge. I have discovered an empathy with people that have suffered that rarely exists with others that can only sympathise. As a society, we marginalise death. That’s what we are told from many a pulpit anyway. But you know, our churches don’t deal with it very well either. I believe this needs to be addressed.

Three challenges for me.

1. I need to concentrate more on Sue’s gain rather than my pain. At the same time acknowledging that the pain I feel is also from God. And for a good reason. The Sovereignty of God and doctrine isn’t theoretical, it’s immensely practical.

2. I need to realise my all in all comes from God alone. This is hard to learn. In death, there is only one that saves. His name is Jesus Christ. I know the theory. Now I’m having to learn the practice.

3. Will I be able to comfort and help others with the comfort and help I have received. It’s all very well saying this and that, but will I be able to minister to others in similarly straitened circumstances. That’s the question.

Sorry if it came out all garbled. More to follow.

 

‘Grieving: Your path back to Peace’ by James R. White – A Recommendation

IMG_0594I had the book ‘Grieving’ by James White for a few months but didn’t read it. No idea why but I decided to start reading it on the Sunday (22/11/2015). I finished it on Monday morning, the day Sue died.

Why this book? The reason for buying this particular book is twofold. I knew from listening to The Dividing Line that Dr White had been a Hospital Chaplin so I figured he would know what he’s talking about. I didn’t realise he had been a grief counsellor until I started reading but it made perfect sense. The other reason was that I didn’t want to read a book and be either disagreeing with the author or wonder quite what perspective they were coming from. I knew his theology and was prepared to learn. In my grieving I didn’t want the additional grief of reading bad or soppy theology.

As I read the book my reasons were justified. It is an excellent little book. And that’s a plus – it’s a little book. I didn’t want to read some massive tome on grieving. Nevertheless, unlike the previous reviews it is a book that is laid out well and the type is easy to read. By the time I write this review I will have read it again. As pointed out in the book – and I knew this would be the case – while Sue was alive the grieving couldn’t truly start. There’s a massive difference! And nothing prepares you for it. I am now truly on the grieving pathway and it isn’t pleasant!

Contents

  1. Autumn’s Grandpa Mike
  2. Am I The Only One That Feels This Way?
  3. The Patterns of Grief
  4. The Work of Grieving
  5. Avoiding the Pitfalls
  6. The Tough Questions
  7. Getting Through

The chapters are short and straight to the point. There’s very little verbiage, if any (Unlike my writing). He offers advice on practical issues like dealing with the clothes and not creating a shrine for your loved one. There is definitely a pull to do exactly that! So, it was helpful to flag that up. He doesn’t dodge the issue of the Sovereignty of God – this is the will of God. After reading it for the first time it was obvious – to me anyway – that I will need to come back to it or sections of it as I work through the grief over and over again. I don’t believe the book will be anywhere near as helpful unless I continue my habit of regularly reading The Scriptures. The book is written primarily for the Christian even though as Dr White points out much of the grieving process is common to humanity as we are all made in the image of God.

It has actually been a few weeks now since Sue died and even though I wasn’t at the time of the first reading on the grieving pathway I have refered to the book several times. I’m actually glad I read it just before Sue died. Dr White, as far as I know, hasn’t gone down the path I am on, but he really does understand and it comes through in the writing.

I would like to thank Dr White for this book. I am glad to have read it and found it extremely helpful both spiritually and practically. It isn’t a panacea, and it isn’t meant to be, but it is honest and makes no unrealistic promises that all will soon be well because they probably won’t be. I would say out of the three, so far, get this one first. I don’t know if it would have helped to have read it much sooner, maybe weeks or even months before Sue died, but I do believe Pastors / Ministers / Elders should read it and have copies readily to hand.

The book is available in The US & The UK

 

So Sorry for Your Loss – Some Thoughts

‘Sorry for your loss’ the Funeral guy said, as he shook my hand on the way out of the house to take Sue to the Funeral home (is that what they call it?). I couldn’t watch them take her. When he said that to me, I thought ‘is that it?’. It made me think of the typical ‘Cop Show’ or in a film where they have to tell the bereaved ‘sorry for your loss’. I don’t want to be cynical, really I don’t. I couldn’t see into the man’s heart so I just accept his sincere condolences – in a kind of numbed way. I suppose it’s an inoffensive phrase that no-one will object to. As a professional he has to say something. He’s at the cutting edge when people are most vulnerable to hurt and upset. It’s a short phrase that doesn’t prolong the visit. It just wouldn’t be appropriate to engage in a long conversation. I certainly didn’t want one. So I guess it did the job. ‘Sorry for your loss’ – Short and inoffensive. Then I’m back to feeling just numbed.

So, I’m in Church on a Sunday evening and a young man comes to me and says ‘so sorry for your loss’. He’s a Christian. I’m a bit taken aback. I remember when they came to collect Sue. I accept his condolences, as you do. Again, I accept the sincerity of it. He did come and speak to me and I appreciated that. So I’m not having a go at anyone. But it made me think: shouldn’t we as believers be able to say more than that. I include myself.  Is that the best we can do? I mentioned it to someone else and they said ‘it’s because they don’t know what to say’. I understand that. But surely if we really do have the Hope we say we have isn’t there something else we can say. Is saying to a fellow believer, no matter how sincere and well intentioned, ‘sorry for your loss’ even a Biblical thing to say?

It’s so easy to unintentionally give offence or cause upset. I confess, I’m hyper sensitive at the moment and no more so than when they came to collect Sue – just numbed would be more accurate. So we resort to these clichéd phrases that ‘do the job’ and ‘get us off the hook’. Phew, I said ‘something’.

Again, I’m in conversation with someone; they said when talking to a believer whose wife had just died – I cut in and said ‘I do hope you didn’t say ‘sorry for your loss’. They did. But with the comment that it’s only an opening gambit that leads to further conversation. Well, maybe. But the bereaved man said ‘I haven’t lost my wife, I know exactly where she is!’ Nice reply. And true.

On the other hand, if we are going to use the phrase, we ought to be aware of what it is we are saying. Even if the phrase ‘sorry for your loss’ isn’t used we still need to be aware that the bereaved believer has suffered a catastrophic loss. And so have those that were closest to them, not least of which is the children and very special friends. What is marriage but the complete intertwining of two lives. When the Bible says the two become one, it isn’t an exaggeration, it isn’t using hyperbole. It’s tangible, real, deep and profound. So deep in fact that Paul says ‘I am talking about Christ and the Church – deep indeed. I’ll have more to say on this another time. But I write this for now so we have an inkling of what it is we are saying if we choose to use the phrase ‘sorry for your loss’.

Having your wife, your best friend, die is about the worst thing that can happen to someone and it’s probably impossible to know what to say in each situation as we are all so very different. So, ‘Sorry for your loss’ gets round that. Rather than just be cynical or critical I’d like to offer some alternatives. We have a whole Bible to use plus 2000 years of Church history and so many wonderful hymns to draw from. My plea is that we can surely do better.

You might be able to tell, but most of this post has been in my ‘Draft’ folder for a few weeks now. But I recently read an article that confirms and supports my contention that we can do better when it comes to speaking to the bereaved believer. The article is ‘The fat lady is already singing‘ by Gary Brady and is available in the Evangelical Magazine on-line HERE. In case you read this Gary – thanks again.

Please be aware they will mostly just be completely numbed. Also remember that unless you have had a similar shattering providence you won’t understand – you are unlikely to understand. So don’t say you do because you most likely won’t. If you really don’t know what to say and the grieving believer is not that well-known to you, may I suggest two options:

  1. Simply send a card (or a text) and say ‘I/we are praying that you will know the consolations of the Gospel’. Put a good Gospel verse in the card. The bereaved believer can read it at their own convenience and will really appreciate the kindness. They may well come up to you and thank you for the card. They might not, but be assured it will have helped, especially if you do remember them in prayer.
  2. You don’t know what to say. Well, the bereaved believer often doesn’t know what to say back either. So it’s helpful to take the pressure off and say something like: ‘I don’t know what to say but I/we are praying that you will know the grace of God in upholding you’. Be brief and don’t expect or wait for a reply. Be thankful that they will appreciate your kindness – and especially your prayers. No need to make a commitment to them. But do pray for them at least once.

Of course you don’t have to say anything at all. You don’t have to send a card either. Your Amen at the prayer meeting or your Amen during the prayer on Sunday is equally precious. I hope and pray this post will get us thinking. It has made me think. What will I say to the bereaved spouse whose world has just collapsed. A number of cards sent to me do have ‘sorry for your loss’ in them with other helpful words. I have appreciated them all very much. It’s too painful at the moment but in time I hope to read through them again. All I’m saying is that with the Unsearchable Riches we have in Christ we can and should do much better.

‘Christians Grieve Too’ by Donald Howard – A Review

ChristiansGrieveToo‘Christians Grieve Too’ by Donald Howard is the second booklet I am briefly reviewing. It’s published by Banner of Truth and is also available at the usual outlets. The booklet came out of the authors own grief two years after his wife died of cancer. Knowing that helps. This author has been there.

The title, I think, says a lot. The scripture says we grieve not as the world. It doesn’t say we don’t grieve.

It is a 32 page booklet. It is short. We like short. We like easy to read as well. I have found my mind is affected by grief. I can’t concentrate as well, I can’t remember so well and have trouble sifting things through in my mind. Yes, we like easy to read.

The chapters are:

Preface
The Reality of Grief
The Experience of Grief
Complications of Grief
The Relief of Grief
Hope in our Grief
Our Blessed Hope

I included the preface because what is said there, thought very brief, is important. He quotes C S Lewis saying he and his wife were prepared for death but not for grief. This was also the experience of Donald Howard. It’s my experience as well. I was not, and I am still not prepared perhaps as I should have been for just how devastating grief is.

The overall impression is what it says on the tin. Christians Grieve Too. The booklet expounds this idea. I found it helpful.

I said at the start ‘This author has been there’. And this is very clearly stated in the ‘Reality of Grief’ and ‘The Experience of Grief’. The other two authors have not. That alone doesn’t make it any better to read. But to me, it is relevant. It helps to know the author understands.

We grieve then, but we don’t grieve as others because we have hope. It is a ‘blessed hope’. This hope is only found in Jesus Christ.

As a small booklet it could be given out to Church members so they have at least some idea of what the bereaved person is going through. Whether it is your present experience or not, I would still recommend reading it.

The Christian & The Death of a Loved One by Peter Jeffery – A Brief Review

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Over the next couple of weeks or so I plan on reviewing two small booklets and a short book on grieving. All three are Christian books.

The first one I’ll be reviewing is ‘The Christian and the Death of a Loved One’ by Peter Jeffery. It’s produced privately by Peter so to get copies you will need to contact him through his website.

Some of you will know that my wonderful wife Sue went to Glory at the end of November 2015 and so this is the context in which I write.

The booklet is super short (16 pages A5), about the length of a chapter in a book with a few headings and could be read very easily in about half an hour or so. Short and easy to read is good. Some sections are only a few paragraphs so there is little waffle and the writing is straight to the point as you would expect. The Headings are:

Sorrow and Comfort
The Comfort of Friends
The God of All Comfort
The Believers Unbelief
Resurrection (1)
Do You Believe This?
God is in Control
Resurrection (2)

There are several helpful quotes, but for me, the most helpful by far, is from William Hendrickson in the section ‘God of All Comfort’. It reads as follows:

‘In the heart of Martha the darkness of grief and the light of hope were engaged in deadly combat. Sometimes her lips gave expression to her near despair, then again to her optimism. Here is a woman, deeply emotional. But, here is also a disciple of Jesus, her soul filled with reverence for her Lord. Here is, consequently, a heart, stirred to its depths, and swaying between grief and hope.’

That is my current experience. So it’s comforting to know I’m not going crazy even though at times it feels like it.

In places Peter was a little too stern I thought, but on the other hand it wouldn’t be helpful to overly molly coddle someone, even someone in the midst of grief. The most important thing the grieving person needs to hear is the truth of the Gospel. That doesn’t mean you batter them with Gospel Truth, but hear its truth they must, and as sensitively and as loving as possible.

It could be a bit over prescriptive at times; for example, expecting the grieving believer to fully have the fear of death removed. They may well experience this full assurance but we shouldn’t assume it. By assuming it, the emotions of the believer, already in turmoil, could do without the added burden of wondering if they have a true faith or not. They may have already thought that anyway so be careful.

The strength of the booklet by a mile is that it constantly points the believer to Christ and the Gospel wherein lies our hope. ‘To whom else shall we go’ said Peter to Jesus, ‘you alone have the words of eternal life’. We are also directed to the fact that God is in Control – even if in the midst of our grief it doesn’t feel like it. We are taken ultimately to the Resurrection with the knowledge that The Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death! We can have confidence that our believing loved one is with Christ which is far better.

For a brief booklet it is well written and packed full. It is quite general though, so don’t expect it to answer every question or address every issue but nevertheless it’s well worth reading. I would recommend reading it alongside something else, maybe one of the others I’ll be reviewing.

Would I recommend giving this to someone in the midst of grieving over a loved one? Yes I would. The positive Gospel emphasis and some excellent quotes make up for a few limitations. The booklet will help give you that Gospel focus. Just be sure you read it before giving it to someone.

Be discerning. But let me just say, please please don’t then keep asking if they have read the particular book / booklet / leaflet / tract or whatever YOU gave them. Just simply pray that God would guide them and be their comfort.

Finally, be aware, the grieving person has their senses heightened to an extraordinary level. They may feel things in a completely different way to how they did before entering the grieving process. They will hear your words but may not have a clue how to respond. So don’t expect too much of them and although you want to help don’t put the burden on them to either make decisions, answer your probing questions or make you feel better.

That’s the first of the three reviews.

Diary of a Grieving Christian – 7 (How are you doing?)

It’s been little while since the last post. I’m conflicted about what to say or whether to say anything at all. Sue died 4 weeks ago today (21/12/2015). How am I doing? Well, I’m still breathing (thank you Jilly). It’s a day at a time. But I wonder daily if I can keep it up – yet by God’s Grace here I am. Living without Sue is awful, intolerable even. I can’t put it any other way.

One Christian brother put it to me this way; ‘What a blessing marriage is – and therefore what a grief in the parting’. I appreciated that. And I feel both so very keenly.

At Church yesterday morning I was asked something like, ‘Are you back to being at peace now?’ I said, ‘No, in fact it seems to be getting worse’. They then said, ‘Are you back at work?’ ‘No’, I replied. ‘What do you think is preventing you from getting back to work?’ I was silent for some moments, and then asked what they were doing for Christmas. I needed to get away from that conversation, and needed to just get away period. I know isolation isn’t helpful, but my reaction is to avoid Church when people ask such things. I know they mean well and I know they pray for me. And it’s appreciated, but even Job’s ‘friends’ sat in silence for a while.

We supported each other. Sue called me her rock, but I needed her just as much. We were a team, a good team at that. We needed each other and I’m sure that is how it should be.

The union of a man and a woman is about as close a relationship as is possible in this life. And so when the Bible says that marriage portrays the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church, we are given an indication of just how close the bond is between a man and his wife. The Bible describes it as being ‘one flesh’. Husbands are told to ‘love their wifes as Christ loved the Church’. It’s why adultery is such a heinous crime. There’s much more to be said on this, not as a ‘diary post’ though but as a separate topic.

That’s it for now.

 

Diary of a Grieving Christian – 6 (The Burial & Funeral Service)

Follow this link to listen to the whole service. Funeral Service of Sue Iliff

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Maybe a couple more and then I’ll probably get back to the usual posts interspersed with things I’ve learned over the last year or so or a ‘kind of’ diary entry. Waking up today (Tuesday 8th December 2015) in many ways is far worse because I now have to think about life without Sue, and move on as they say. But I don’t want to ‘move on’. Although I’ve talked about ‘moving on’ I have no idea what that means without Sue. For now, I’ll walk through Sunday and the day of the Funeral – yesterday Monday 7th December 2015. The whole Service was recorded. And I think it was just such an amazing service. The church was pretty well full. The Gospel was clearly proclaimed. The singing was wonderful. Without a doubt, God was in that service! And to bless!

So on Sunday I stayed at home all day. I planned on going to the evening service but in the end just couldn’t face it. Instead I joined Robert and the folks at IBC in Sacramento for their morning service on-line. I seriously wondered how I would get through the Burial and the Service on Monday. I was dreading it. I even thought about not turning up. Monday came and I started the day by lying awake worrying if the burial would be in the right place and a number of other things I seemed to only just be thinking about. Didn’t people throw roses or something into the open grave? What an idiot – I just hadn’t thought it all through and now it was too late to do anything about it. I read my Bible and prayed. Then I got up.
It helped that the family were here. Ruth and Adrian were on their way with the kids. I was hoping my suit would fit. It was horrible not having Sue making sure I had dressed myself correctly. I came downstairs, saw myself in the mirror and just felt so sad that Sue wasn’t with me – we did everything together. Rhodri & Sybil also arrived and we gathered in the living room  because I wanted us to pray before leaving. Chris and Adrian prayed. As we stood to leave, I said, ‘remember, as Sue would have said, her body is there, but she isn’t’. We then got in the cars and made our way to the cemetery.

One of the first things I noticed when we arrived at the cemetery was that Ruth came with a bunch of single Roses. Dear Ruth. I wasn’t sure how many would be at the burial. But I soon realised there were a lot more than I expected. All waiting for us to approach. Everything was in place. The grave was where I had hoped it would be (but worried about). I felt calm and at peace. Julie from the Funeral Directors briefly explained what would happen and directed us to the right spot – right in front of the grave with the coffin ready to be lowered. Everyone gathered round. Paul (Pastor Paul Watts) spoke beautifully, movingly and with much conviction. As Christians we can speak with conviction the truths of the Gospel even when death is quite literally right before our eyes.

My dear, dear, darling Sue’s body is now in the ground waiting for the resurrection at the final day, when Jesus will be revealed in all those that have believed and those that have rejected Him will call upon the very rocks to cover them from the face of the Lamb of God who will now be their Judge.

One of the things that stood out as testimony was the diversity of people that came to the burial or the service or both. People she had worked with from 30 years before, others from more recent times, friends and even girls from where she had her hair done. She touched a lot of people, all sorts of people, not all from the church either, but couldn’t see it in herself as you will hear.

I needn’t say too much about the funeral as the whole service was recorded (link above & below). But once we were all there and seated Paul began to lead the service. (Our Son Chris and Ruth’s husband Adrian gave tributes. Our friend Trevor Thomas read from the Scripture and Chris’s Pastor Geoff Thomas prayed.) The church was well-nigh full. Sue endeared herself to a lot of people. I don’t know what I thought throughout really. But the Gospel was faithfully preached and very clearly. We pray for fruit. There were a couple of times my emotions nearly got the better of me but I hung in there. Afterwards it was a case of trying to meet and thank as many people as possible. Sharon the lady that first spoke to Sue about Jesus was there with her husband and ‘naughty boy’ Paul. My Best Man Mike was there. It was lovely to see so many. By the end of the service I was shattered. So many people at our church (Lower Ford Street Baptist Church, Coventry) helped make the day happen. I am so thankful to God for all the people there that have prayed and helped and supported. ‘See how they love one another’.

The day(s) after is another story. Now what do I do?

Follow this link to listen to the service. Funeral Service of Sue Iliff

Diary of a Grieving Christian – 5 (The Viewing: Another Visit to the Funeral Directors)

Today (Friday) was the day I was not looking forward to. My friend Robert suggested I go see Sue if I can as it would or could give me some closure. I made the appointment to view Sue for 10.00 this morning (Friday). I was dreading this. It’s not for everyone and have made no demands on the kids. But I reasoned, whatever I decided, I would probably regret. But If I didn’t see her the opportunity would be lost and wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. If it was a horrible experience, I reasoned, the memory would fade having many better memories and pictures of Sue. Armed with Sue’s words echoing in my mind ‘they are not there’ I drove to the place where Sue is resting – her body at any rate.

So I pulled into the car park and sat praying for a moment and then decided what I would do. I would go in on my own, pray aloud and then read aloud a part of 1 Corinthians 15. I went in and was ushered into a room in reception while waiting  for Julie, the lady assisting us in the arrangements. Julie appeared and took me through a door and along a corridor with a series of rooms. Quite weird actually. We then stood outside the room where Sue was resting. I was emotional and crying outside the door. We went in, with me still crying to see Sue lying in the coffin. Julie was very good. I told her my intentions, explaining Sue was not there but in heaven. She said it was good to have faith – not quite sure what she meant by that. Julie then left. I was alone with the body of my beloved and wonderful Sue.

With trembling voice I thanked The Lord for saving Sue, for keeping her over the years, for bringing us together, for keeping us together, for our children and our grandchildren. I asked the Lord to be with us as a family, to be present at the burial and the service and that He might save, that the Gospel would be preached and that He would be Glorified.

I then turned to the Scriptures and began reading this passage: 1 Corinthians 15: 35-58. I noticed especially verse 37 where it says ‘what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel’. A bare Kernel! And then noting the following verses:

1Co 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
1Co 15:43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
1Co 15:44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

I continued to read, reinforcing the truth that Sue is not here but has gone to be with Christ. Finally, I turned to Job 1:20 – 21.

Job 1:20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshipped.
Job 1:21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

After reading from Job I spoke to Sue, even though it was bonkers, given what I had just read. But it was for me. I then came out of the room and made my way through to reception. Julie appeared again, we spoke briefly and I was on my way. I was consciously different. Was this closure? Absolutely no idea. I felt calm and at peace. Quite different from how I was before. Is this normal? No idea. The Word was powerful as I read it there in that room alone with God. There was no flash of lightning, or smoke, or voice (apart from mine), or trembling (only mine). Just The Word of God. When faced with Death, all we need is the Word of God. All flesh is as grass, but The Word of the Lord endures forever!

In closing this post, note these verses very carefully:

1Co 15:54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
1Co 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
1Co 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.