Grief is Hard Work – I Thessalonians 4:13

That’s what I told my nephew-in-law at the graveside of his wife, my niece. And, I added that every person does this hard work a little differently. There are no shortcuts and it cannot be programmed to end at a specific time. He and his 14-yr-old daughter and all our family are mourning the death of precious Camille who packed so much good into her 47 years that we are all amazed. Jr. high business teacher, accountant, marriage therapist, Bible class teacher, devoted wife and mother — the list could go and on. So many lives were touched and all with the grace and gentleness of Jesus in a way that will last for an eternity. It was melanoma cancer which took her physical life, only about three months after initial diagnosis. There were plenty of reminders of her victory in Jesus, for whom she lived and in whom she put her complete trust and hope, but we survivors still must grieve.

So must all those affected by the terrible shooting at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. Thirty-three lives, most very young, ended senselessly, but there was some solace in the story of the only older person of the victims. Professor Liviu Librescu, 76, died after holding his classroom door closed to the shooter long enough for his students to escape out of the second-floor window. One of those students, Caroline Merrey, whose back still ached from that escape, knelt before a memorial to her professor and said, “Every time I bend and feel my sore back, I kind of go back to that room and I can picture what happened. His selflessness is the reason I’m here.” President Bush also spoke of Librescu at the U.S. Holocaust Museum on April 18, “This Holocaust survivor gave his own life so that others might live.” His son delivered a eulogy at his funeral in Israel. He said of his father’s teaching, “The courses in aerodynamics have ended. On April 16, he started a new career, teaching a new subject – heroism – which millions of students are learning.”

Yes, but the hard work of grieving still must be done, by Librescu’s family, by my own family, by all whose loved ones die, whether by disease or disaster. To a great extent it is unpredictable, but what is predictable about grief is that, at some point, it almost always involves a deep sense of loss, disbelief, anger, regrets, doubts, tears, talk and prayer (the more the better on both) and eventually, acceptance. We may think we’ve reached acceptance and then go back to anger more than once, but it takes time, sometimes a great deal of it, and sometimes even professional help. Even Christians, who do not “grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope” (I Thess. 4:13) have to grieve. Thankfully, we do it with hope, with anticipation of reunion in eternity, because of Jesus and His sacrifice. It truly is His selflessness on the cross that gives us even more than physical life, as well as hope through death.

“We will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (I Thess. 4:17b-18)

Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey.  All rights reserved.

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