A most difficult challenge to face in life is the death of a loved one. When we lose property and possessions, we can take hope from the fact that these can be restored or replaced, but the death of a loved one can seem so final.
An Air Force chaplain learned this as he sat with many grieving families that had lost close relatives. How do you bring comfort to such tragic situations?
One of the most comforting affirmations of life in the face of death that he found in the Bible is St. Paul's bold statement in his letter to the Romans: "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (8:38, 39).
The central message of Christ Jesus' life and teaching, demonstrated in his resurrection, is that death is not the end of life. Life is eternal, and the interruption of death cannot do what it claims to do. It cannot rob anyone of his or her life in God, which is eternal. But more than that, it cannot separate anyone from "the love of God." This statement applies not only to those who have passed on, but to those who remain here.
For those left behind, to continue living and fulfilling the demands of life here without the ones we hold most dear can seem a struggle. The present and the future may look bleak, but this is the time to claim the fact that just as our loved one can't be separated from God's love, neither can we.
A prayerful appeal to God's love can open thought to a deeper reality in which death is not victorious. Remembering and reflecting on the precious qualities our loved ones expressed, we can, and do, companion with those qualities that constitute what we actually loved most about them – their liveliness, intelligence, honesty.
We may realize that while those qualities were expressed through a physical body, they are certainly not confined to it. In fact, joy, beauty, strength, wisdom, and love are spiritual and remain with our loved one and with us. They remind us of the joy – and tears maybe – but also laughter, satisfaction, and love we experienced with that individual. In this way, we can continue to love and cherish the one we loved.
Missing those who have left us is often the toughest issue. Jesus taught and showed us that God's love for each of His children is eternal and boundless. His unfailing goodness is expressed through countless individuals all around us. The qualities our loved one embodied may seem unique, but because they have their source in God, who is ever present, they are always available.
As we expand our vision to include others who need and deserve our love, we'll find many opportunities to express the qualities of those whom we've loved, and to see their expression in new people who come into our lives.
In the midst of grief we may long to be loved again in just the way that we have been loved, but the deeper need is actually for us to love. As we lift our vision – trusting our Father-Mother to care for us, and for those who have gone on – we will find new opportunities to love. And we'll prove that Life, not death, is final.
Blessed be God,
even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies,
and the God of all comfort;
who comforteth us in all our tribulation,
that we may be able to comfort them
which are in any trouble,
by the comfort wherewith
we ourselves are comforted of God. II Corinthians 1:3, 4