Nicholas Wolterstorff in the book The Incomplete One makes a profound statement about grief and hope in the face of death. He writes, “Though grief does not smother hope, neither does hope smother grief.”
Death is a reality everyone must face, and it presents a distinct and important challenge for the Christian. St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, wrote , “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” And yet, in another letter the apostle wrote “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”
Wolterstorff, St. Paul, and all of us who have lost a loved one who is a follower of Christ wrestle with the same dichotomy.
For the living, the death of a loved one is a tragic and painful loss. The pain is acute and lasting, and the reality that death is not how life should end comes into sharp focus. We mourn, we cry, we live in sorrow.
For the deceased in Christ, death is a release, a passage, an opening. The joy is acute and lasting, and the reality that life with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is life in its most grand fulfillment is brought into sharp focus. They worship, they rest, they live in peace and wonder.
It’s sometimes difficult to remember that one does not rid our lives of the other.
“Though grief does not smother hope, neither does hope smother grief.”
I watched my grandfather live out this truth in beautiful ways. He lost his precious bride, Everma Jo Girard, when she passed away on October 15th, 2002 after 58 years of marriage. My grandfather grieved deeply. He experienced a sadness and loss I cannot even hope to understand as a husband of only three months. My grandmother Jo was his best friend, his faithful wife, and the love of his life.
And as much as his last 10 years have been marked with grief, they have been equally marked with hope. My Grandfather knew Jesus and faithfully rested in the hope that he too, one day, would go home. On that day he would meet his Savior and would experience him just as his wife was. This truth filled him with hope.
Grief and hope. Hope and grief.
This Saturday my family will bury my grandfather, Cecil Meshew Girard. “Granddad.” A faithful, quiet, loving, strong, hopeful, convicted, loyal, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and follower of Christ.
And because we love him dearly – we grieve. Deeply. Today we miss him and want him back.
And because we trust Christ – we hope. Deeply. One day we will join him and won’t ever look back.
Our hope will not be overwhelmed by our grief, and neither will our grief be overwhelmed by our hope.
– – – – – – – – – – –
I thank God for Granddad. He followed God. He pursued what was right. He respected all people. He loved deeply. He lived well.
Today he is Home – and in my grief I celebrate for him.
Cecil Meshew Girard
April 17, 1923 – February 3, 2013