I was awakened very early one spring morning by what sounded like uproarious sustained laughter. First I thought my husband must have read a hilarious text or email. But so early? I was slightly annoyed at the loud disturbance. This was my day to sleep in.
Then as his lumbering footsteps quickly ascended the stairs, my heart skipped a beat and my mind warned, “that’s not laughter, that’s sobbing!” I jumped out of bed with fearful tears spilling onto my cheeks, pleading with him to tell me — please tell me, now — what had happened, convinced that he had received terrible news about one of our sons.
Those tears were indeed being shed for one of our family. Not a son — but a lifelong friend who was “closer than a brother.” Earlier that week, Mike had made it through a successful major surgery and by his dear wife’s report the day before, he was recovering well and able to go home from the hospital. However, in the middle of that first night at home, Mike suffered a severe heart attack, lost consciousness and after a week on life support, he died.
The shared pain of this sudden, unexpected death brought my husband and many others to a memorial service where we grieved, yet not without hope. Listen here to the hauntingly beautiful rendition of the song that accompanied countless stories of Mike’s warm, caring, kind heart and the faith that lived inside.
My husband’s deep regret at not having had the chance to say goodbye to Mike led him, only a few months later, to step off an international flight and head directly to the bedside of another dear friend, Scott. (38 years ago, Scott performed our marriage ceremony — and Mike sang.) Though a decade older, Scott was like Mike in Carl’s life — a quiet, steady influence with a firm faith and a humble heart. We wanted to say goodbye and encourage him as he patiently waited to leave behind his broken earthly body. We told him how much he had meant to us and how we would miss him, Then, as he had done for each of his deathbed visitors, he turned the tables and encouraged us. With the little energy he had, he prayed for us.
Scott’s memorial service, like Mike’s, brought hundreds to share in tears and much laughter a life well lived for Jesus. Scott, like Mike, was the kind of man who did not exalt himself. Yet his legacy is deep and wide. His influence through Young Life, especially LaVida, then later in the inner city is astonishing. Watch this thoughtful, joyful tribute by Scott’s good friend, Dick Foth. (If you cannot spare time to view the entire 13.5 minutes, start at the 11.13 minute mark and watch to the very end.) One day, may we all hear the same words that Dick Foth imagines Scott heard, as he entered heaven’s throne room.
Six months have passed since Mike’s May 1st death — almost four since Scott’s. The annual Zook Golf Tournament took place for the first time without Mike in September. It’s fall now. We are missing our good friends, and still shed tears thinking of them. As fall turns to winter, we and many others will continue to move through seasons of grief. Death was not part of God’s original plan for us. And it is not the final word for those who trust that one day the resurrected Christ will raise them to new life. Until then, we live in the now and the not yet.
If you or someone you know is grieving, read Understanding Your Grief, by clicking the title.
Rooted In Truth Scriptures: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 1 Thessalonians:13-14 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-51 Peter 5:5b Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces. — Isaiah 25:8 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. — Isaiah 53:4
Growing In Love Practical Application: How do you help yourself in a season of grief? If you have not already done so, read Understanding Your Grief or He Is With Us Through Grief by clicking either title. Grief counseling and support groups like Stephens Ministries and Griefshare or for Military, TAPS are safe and welcoming places to heal. God wants to comfort you. One day, you will be able to comfort others.
How do you help someone else in a season of grief? Be there. You don’t have to say anything. (and sometimes it may be best to simply say, “I am so, so sorry.”) A heartfelt hug goes a long way. Show up. Listen. Don’t be afraid to ask about the person they are missing. Reach out without expectations. Be patient. Read 15 ways to support someone who is grieving.