I’ve been around church my entire life. And my career is ministry with the last two and a half years serving as a Senior Pastor. I’ve lost count of the number of families I’ve ministered to during times of death and loss. But losing my mom has taught me some things.
- Grief is frustratingly unique. Everybody grieves differently. I knew that before, but I really know that now. I’ve had moments of tears, moments of joy, moments of relief, and moments of sadness. Some of those have happened congruently. During the last week I’ve not known what to say, how to feel, or what to think.
- Show grace. Because we experience and express grief differently, it is important that we show grace to one another. I credit my wife with this advice. Her dad died suddenly about 15 years ago. She has been where I am. She told me, “Chris, give your family grace.” Her advice was pertinent and helpful. When experiencing grief or ministering to those facing grief, show grace.
- Care and compassion are more important than words. There is nothing to be said that can fix grief. But compassion, cards, calls, texts, food, flowers, prayers and the ministry of presence are ways that compassion are felt. While I remember little of what was said to me the past week, I remember vividly the hugs, looks, and expressions of those who have reached out.
- The certainty of death is more real than ever. Unless the Lord returns, we will all face death. My mom was ready to die. She is now with her Creator because she has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The event of death in our lives should cause us to consider our readiness for death.
- Death opens the door for eternal conversations. Just yesterday in the car my three year old, Nathan, said, “Meme died. She’s in heaven.” I said, “Yes, she trusted Jesus so she is in heaven.” Then he said, “I wish I could be there in heaven with Meme.” The love and tenderness of wanting to see his Meme again was precious. But it allowed me to share with him how we can be assured of going to heaven. I told him we needed to confess our sins and trust in Jesus so we could be forgiven. My mom’s death opened the door for an eternal conversation.
It has been an emotional week for me and my family. But I know my mom is better. Her pain is gone. I’m thankful for all she taught and how she poured into my life. I’m also grateful for the privilege to learn and grow from this experience. May I be a be a more gracious, compassionate, and patient pastor.