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My grandfather died this morning. On one level, his death came as a mercy and was not accompanied by the shock and tragedy that so often accompany a loved one’s passing. But on another level, my grandfather’s death—like all deaths—is a shock and it is tragic. We wear death very poorly, as human beings. We try to ignore it, sanitize it, romanticize it, keep it arms length, or any number of other strategies, but we’re never very successful.

I don’t think we are supposed to be comfortable or “at peace” with death, no matter how “natural” it is. It’s not how we’re wired. It’s not how I’m wired. Even as Christians who do not “grieve as those who have no hope,” death always stings, always robs, always leaves a hole, always mocks and reminds. Death always hurts.

It’s been a quiet morning thus far—a good one for thinking about my grandfather, praying, and reading. One of the books I have  been thumbing through is Kathleen Norris’s Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. In a discussion of heaven, she cites these words from St. Augustine:

Let us sing Alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security… We shall have no enemies in heaven, we shall never lose a friend. God’s praises are sung both here and there, but here they are sung in anxiety, there in security; here they are sung by those destined to die, there, by those destined to live forever; here they are sung in hope, there in hope’s fulfillment; here, they are sung by wayfarers, there, by those living in their own country. So then… let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do—sing, but continue your journey… Sing then, but keep going.

Goodbye Grandpa. Sing well in hope’s fulfillment.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ken #

    Yes, indeed, it always hurts. Your goodbye is full of beauty.

    January 13, 2010
  2. Paul Johnston #

    A beautiful goodbye, indeed…until you meet again.

    May the Lord hear your prayer of suffering and sadness, infusing you with the awareness of impending joy. The joyful reception of your grandfather into heaven and in time, your joyful appreciation of that reality.

    Ryan, in RC custom we believe that praying for the souls of the departed is an important form of intercessory prayer. We believe God, in his infinite mercy, hears these prayers and through the abundance of his love seeks to honour their intention. If such a custom isn’t offensive to you, I would be very pleased to be able to present the intentions of your grandfather this evening at my prayer meeting.

    To that end could you please e-mail me your grandfathers name. Thank you.

    January 13, 2010
  3. Renita Hamm #

    “”Every spirit passing through the world fingers the tangible and mars the mutable and finally has come to look and not to buy. So shoes are worn and hassocks are sat upon and finally everything is left where it was and the spirit passes on, just as the wind in the orchard picks up the leaves from the ground as if there were no other pleasure in the world but brown leaves, as if it would deck, clothe, flesh itself in flourishes of dusty brown apple leaves and then drops them all in a heap at the side of the house and goes on.” ”
    — Marilynne Robinson

    Ryan, your Grandpa’s done playing in the dusty brown apple leaves. He now fingers the intangible. Strange wonderings…

    January 13, 2010
    • Beautiful quote, Renita. Thanks for sharing it.

      January 13, 2010
  4. Sorry for your loss, Ryan. And amen to hope’s fulfillment.

    January 13, 2010
  5. Sorry to hear about your loss. May you be comforted by the comforter himself:

    1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

    But I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

    January 13, 2010
  6. Thanks, all, for your kind words and encouragement.

    January 13, 2010
  7. Mike C. #

    I’m sorry to hear about this Ryan — I think your post is a beautiful tribute to your Grandpa.

    January 13, 2010
  8. Gina #

    much appreciated

    January 13, 2010
  9. It is an interesting emotional space – when death seems a welcome vehicle to end suffering and pain yet instantly causes it as well. This duality is a convenient mechanism for our recovery.
    I suppose if John is involved in music production -up there- I’d like to imagine his assignment to be playing certain Latin percussion 😉
    Our thoughts are with you as you grieve his passing.

    January 14, 2010
  10. My condolences to you and your family as well. I find the photo you included with this post beautiful and very evocative of the theme.

    January 14, 2010

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