Finding Faith: Looking for comfort in the path of grief
"Here in our success-driven world, we’ve come to hold up youth and vitality as the only coveted stages of life. So death has become something to fear; something from which to run. When in reality, death is one of the only truly equitable facets of our lives because it is inevitable for all of us."
This past week, I had the great honor of presiding over the funeral of a 100-year-old World War II and Korean War veteran who was a parishioner at our church. The affair was not as somber as some observances of death are. This was a joyous celebration of a dedicated husband, father and grandfather, a war hero and community builder.
While certainly there were a great many people sad over his death because he was genuinely that sweet of a man, there also was great joy over this good and faithful servant going to dwell in the house of his Lord forever (See Psalm 23).
Full transparency: Early on as a clergy member, walking alongside a family during the time of death of a loved one was a cause of great consternation. I feared I couldn’t do justice to celebrate the life of the deceased. It would tie my stomach in knots.
But later, as more families expressed their gratitude for the pastoral care provided during their time of mourning, I realized what a great honor it is to walk the grief journey with the loved ones during a time of death. And what is a faith leader, if not someone doing their best to help make sense during a time when nothing seems to make sense.
Our society has a perverse relationship with death. With longer lifespans and few people dying at home around family anymore, many of us are well into adulthood before we must come to terms with the first death of a loved one.
Here in our success-driven world, we’ve come to hold up youth and vitality as the only coveted stages of life. So death has become something to fear; something from which to run. When in reality, death is one of the only truly equitable facets of our lives because it is inevitable for all of us.
I can’t help but wonder if some of our unease over death is the result of the growing detachment from a foundational belief in a higher power. After all, if you don’t believe you are going somewhere else after your relatively short life here on earth, then anxiety over death is understandable.
One of the aspects of being a faith leader I never anticipated was the sense of duty I feel in walking the grief path with a family, even if it is only for a short while during the beginning of the journey.
There is a sense of fulfillment for this service that goes beyond explanation. And I am eternally grateful to each family who welcomes me into this most intimate of moments in their lives. It is one of the most sacred duties any faith person can perform.