The Man

My father died February 13, 2012.

To remember is to heal.
To celebrate.
To anticipate.

—————————–

The Man

This day.
Again.

A requisite cycling of grief.

The remembering is terrifically awful.

In my mind are blood-red carnations
let loose amidst winter’s chill.
In fragrant tribute they softened the dirt of decay,
taunting death with the beauty of Hope.

Your mortality rests in mysterious completion,
enveloped in wood and cement.
Etched in placid formality is your name — our name.
You left us the fruit of integrity.

Immense is the void of you.
A reluctant child, I stand drop-jawed and small,
grateful, afraid — 
and sad.

This is hard, dad.

But you know that.
We all come to know this anguished separation.

Still, I long for more —

For another, “That’s my boy!”
For a glimpse of your wink and nod.
For the warm fullness of your squeeze on my shoulder.

Such are a father’s gifts.
You were generous.

A catalyst to my manliness.

Stability, strength, and tenderness.

The man.

Now it’s my turn.

Sweet Mary

In the dark of my desk drawer is a birthday card.


On the cover, in black and white, is the photo of a crinkle-faced, toothless old man. 
Inside is this salutation: “You had better pray that you are as young as you feel and not as old as you look! – Love, Mary 🙂

Funny Mary.

Mary’s gone. 

At least from here. 

That void aches.

I think of her. And cry.

Separation hurts.

Death’s old cuts are bleeding fresh.



I’m pondering pain and justice.

Coaxing hope from the chaos of grief. 

Cultivating joy in the seedbed of faith.

Still, I long for more of that beautiful life. 

For more of Mary.

More of her laughter and jokes.

Her pranks and her pizza.

Her finely-feathered costume halo and mischievous smile.



I’ll miss her sipping coffee from a Victorian teacup.

Perching tiptoed on a step stool to fetch reams of paper.

Sprinting through the hall to answer a ringing phone.



Hard-working Mary.



I have books on my shelf. 

Books from Mary.
Old books. Wonderful books. 

Her husband’s books. 

Thumbing through their pages, I glean Mary’s love.

I am humbled. Honored. Unworthy. Grateful. 

Wonderful gifts.



Thank you, Mary.



Death is a robber. 

A felonious creep that steals our best treasures. 

He took our Mary – and not very nicely.

Jerk.

But Mary’s just fine.

Better than ever, really.

Rested. Satisfied. Complete.


Alive!  



Her earthly song reverberates.

It is lovely.

And we sing for her, as she renews her precious marital grip.

Basks in faith’s realization.

And meets the gaze of her greatest love.



Well done, Sweet Mary.




Mary’s life verse: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10–11, NIV)

The Crying Man

Graveside.

He’s standing there now. A woman sits crouched at his feet, shaking with sobs. The grave has engulfed her brother, who was precious to her.

Slumped on His shoulder is another woman. Sister to the first, her fingers ebb and flow with constriction upon His shoulder, syncing with erratic bursts of breath that flirt with His neck. His body gently resonates with her waves of sorrow. The woman’s ever-freshening tears have darkened the front of his cloak, bringing a poignant unity between them.

He finds his emotions building as cries from black-clothed mourners continuously loop their cacophonous wail. Closing His eyes, scenes flash across his mind with rapidity – the dead man, these sisters, shared meals, raucous laughter, late-night conversations, confrontations.

His eyes begin to burn as they prime a flow of salty grief. His mouth is dry but he reflexively swallows. Plagued with emotional tightness, His throat resists. Thorns and thistles. Life and death. This is the curse.

Gone is Lazarus.

The man, Jesus, weeps.

A tear pushes through the dust of Palestine that lightly coats His cheek. A second tear chases the first and nestles in His beard. His chest undulates with erratic heaves as He tries to dampen the outburst of grief welling inside. The woman at his shoulder shifts her arms to hold Him, briefly suspending her grief to offer comfort. He loved her brother. Great friends. Death has robbed their joy.

Jesus fully enters this interlude of grief. On His heart rests mankind’s dilemma and the burden of loss. He embraces the deep soul sorrow of separation through death. He doesn’t rescue by cueing the next scene. Instead, He stands there.

Crying.

Unashamed. Feeling the pain of life in His humanity.

Through His tears, Jesus offered uniquely human streams of compassion for his friends. Streams of anguish for our cursed humanity. Streams of love that foreshadow another flow.

Jesus is not above our pain. He is the answer to it.

Read the whole story in John 11.

Mining Fields of Grief

Despite being an introvert, my fondness for conversation is growing.

With the recent passing of my father, these past two weeks have been filled with conversations. Some focused on memories and recollections. Others were teary-eyed offerings of sympathy. And many began with emotion-choked words that quickly slipped into a gentle, silent embrace that communicated more than words ever could.

The day of my dad’s funeral, in the quiet of the church foyer I conversed with a friend. As she held my hand and fixed her eyes on mine, she spoke to me. Her words were purposeful. Piercing. Spirit-filled. Wise. She drew me into a sacred moment—a moment that has stolen my thoughts often in recent days.

Through that simple conversation, I was given a profound perspective on death. With her verbal and non-verbal communicating, my friend led me to an understanding of how we lay the dead to rest. As the sun streamed through the foyer’s glass doors, her soft, careful, intimate words brought life to Ecclesiastes 7:2—“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” (NIV)

As my friend and I talked, music played gently in the auditorium. I watched my mother worry her overly used tissue. One of my children nestled close to my side seeking the comfort of my touch. My father’s body laid an arms-length away. I was in a house of mourning. And it was wonderful.

The words of God, the conversation with my friend and the atmosphere of a small church foyer coalesced for a few surreal moments. My soul was shaken as it kindled the hope that God reveals Himself not just in life, but also in death. For the first time I felt a desire to mine funeral grief for bits of redemptive treasure. Funerals need not be empty goodbyes. They are opportunities to rescue beauty and truth from the grasp of humanity’s most painful, broken inevitability. The death of my father was a slice of history from which I can take something and keep it alive through my own living.

My heart is full. And heavy. Before, during and after dad’s relocation to heaven, my family has been surrounded and sheltered with love. Countless expressions of grace have bolstered our faith through this trying time. All we can do is respond with deepest gratitude.

Through my father’s death, my longing for restoration has intensified. But in the waiting, I rest in our Great Hope, Jesus Christ. And, thanks to a friend, I will engage funerals with expectation. Yes, I will grieve. I will comfort. I will cry. I will love. But I will also beg God to show Himself in fresh ways as I sit in a house of mourning.