When Death Comes

The title above is the name of a funeral sermon I have used and adapted over the years. It is also what has been happening at Gateway with all too much frequency lately.

When death comes to an elderly Christian who has demonstrated God’s grace throughout their lives that is one thing, but we recently had a fifteen-day-old infant to die. Even though we are assured that all are now in God’s presence, the grieving and healing process is different.

When death comes I often find myself struggling for words- not necessarily the public part of officiating- but the private, personal words to family left behind and this is especially so in the death of a child.

What do you say? I have come to realize that presence is more important than words.

When death comes- even when it is expected- at best it is bittersweet. Even if death is a release from suffering and is faced in faith- it is a seperation. It is a loss. And it is felt long after the funeral is over.

And this is a significant point. When death comes we usually surround the family with hugs, cards, calls, flowers, support, prayers and food until the funeral is over.

When death comes- and it will- to us all, my mind lingers on Psalm 23. When I have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death I am counting on God’s rod and staff to comfort me and guide me past the fear to the quiet and peacefulness of the green pastures and still waters.


12 Responses to When Death Comes

  1. Gordy! says:

    “I have come to realize that presence is more important than words.”

    I totally agree.

  2. Donna says:

    I have had to deal with this way too much in the last couple of weeks….thanks for the reminder not to forget after the funeral.

  3. preacherman says:

    Wonderful post on death brother.
    This is the best one that I have read.
    Keep up the great blogging brother.
    I love reading your blog.
    I hope you have a great day.
    Kinney Mabry

  4. Adam G. says:

    When my dad died unexpectedly in Jan 2005, no words from anyone would have helped. An arm around the should from my wife and hugs from my kids went a long way, though.

  5. Death is never easy – expected or not – because we are selfish and we don’t want to let our loved ones go even though we know that if they are Christians they are in a better place, free from suffering and pain. The hole left in our hearts and lives is often difficult to fill and heal and each one of us has to do that in our own way. While I really appreciate all the calls, cards, food, flowers, memorials made in my step-dad (he died in December 2007) and Mom’s (she died in February 2008) memories, I still need time to be alone and still with God with no one around so I can listen and think and pray and sometimes I wonder if the hurt will ever go away. This is a good post , Danny. Thanks!

  6. Jim says:

    Good subject. And, yes, we support very well for a fewm weeks. Unfortunately, when a couple have been married for YEARS (40, 50, 60), the survivor must cope with a loss of loved one AND the loss of a lifestyle. Most will never fully “get over it”. And it’s ok to mourn for the rest of their life.

  7. dannydodd says:

    Thanks everyone for your input. It is much appreciated. This is a topic that often we do not want to discuss- so sharing your perspective is significant.

    Jim makes a very good point (he does work with Hospice afterall)- it is okay to grieve even for a lifetime- just so it is not the diabilitating kind- there are levels of grief.

    But I have known folks who never got over a death- and in one case- the person left behind died three months later- just could not go on without the other.

  8. Jim says:

    Reminds me of a country song…”He Stopped Loving Her Today”. Now that is debilitating!!!!!

  9. Danny says:

    Good post. Even with God, we appreciate His words of comfort… but His presence, that is real power and comfort.

  10. SteveLavin says:

    Excellent thoughts Danny!

    Here are some lessons that I learned after suffering a different kind of loss. (My wife suffered an unexpected stroke before she turned 40).

    The absolute best thing Job’s friends did for him was sit quietly with him for an entire week. (Wow! What support!) The worst thing they did was to speak up and try to make sense of his tragedy.

    People who have suffered a loss will need different things from different people. They will also tell you (not in words) what they are needing from these different people IF you will sit quietly with them for a little bit. From some people, who are not as close to them personally, they may not say much, but they will very much appreciate your presence. That will be enough. From people who are closer to them personally, and that have shared mutual times together, they may tell about an experience that brings laughter. It’ OK to laugh and share your own stories. And finally, from a very few, they may open up and reveal their hurts and fears. In this situation it is preferable to just sit silently and listen (with a ready hug). It is not the time to say, ‘everything will be OK” because for them it isn’t OK and their mourning could last for quite some time….maybe a lifetime.

    I could not imagine the loss of a child nor the loss of my spouse of 28 years! And while my wife and I did suffer unexpected loss I could never tell someone in those situations, “I know how you feel.” Because I have absolutely no idea how someone makes it through a time like that.

    Finally, unexpected gestures of kindness are always good. And actions are always better than offers! Why? Because few people ever take up an offer to “let me know if I can do anything.” But concrete actions are always welcome. For example, “I will be bringing dinner by on Thursdays for the next few weeks. No need to cook on those nights.” If the spouse earned an important income, that is now gone, it could take months (if ever) to make adjustments. A check with a simple comment, “It’s not much and it’s definately not a loan… If you have a chance, in the future, to help someone else and you are able to do it, that would be sufficient payback.” Or any one of a thousand ‘unexpected’ gestures after the loss will mean so much.

    I am sure others have better suggestions for helping people suffering loss. I only offer these thoughts from my limited perspective.

    Danny, thanks for braving yet another topic that doesn’t get much press but affects all of us, at some time, and in some way.

  11. Royce says:

    May 2nd my wife and I will begin our 5th year of facilitating a grief support group twice a year called “Grief Share”. This time it will be different, I buried my mom about 3 weeks ago.

    You mentioned the 23rd Psalm. The preacher at my dad’s funeral (May 1993) made the following remarks. “We who are saved walk through the valley of the shadow of death, not into it. The shadow of a knife can’t cut you, the shadow of a dog can’t bite you, and the shadow of death can’t kill you.”

    Death is far more sure than life, all of us must deal with it sometime in our lives. The good news is that eternal life is just as real and far more sure. The one who said of himself “I am the Resurrection and the Life” said “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

    The “blessed hope” of Christ’s return (Titus 2:13) is for us a blessed certainty. We can say with much assurance to those who have died in the Lord, not “good bye” but rather, “see you later”.

    His peace,
    Royce Ogle

  12. Jim Sexton says:

    I love the 46th Psalm… especially the passage that says, “Be still and know that I am God.” In times of difficult loss, like the loss of a small child, it helps me to know and to remind those left behind wondering “Why?”.

    When I am at a loss for words, and that happens more than I would like, there is always God. No comfort and no love like His. I need to be the conduit that taps into that comfort and love so that I can reach out to those in pain.

    When there is no answer, there is always God. He knows, He cares, and He loved enough to sacrifice His own Son. The Cherokee have a phrase that says ‘see you later’ rather than goodbye.

    To them there is no final goodbye… “dah-nah-dah-goh-huhn-yuhn”


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