Union Ridge Church

March 1, 2023

by Reverend Dan on March 1, 2023
It’s the little things. The routines and habits that over the years have become second nature. You do them without even thinking about it. Things that are so ingrained in your everyday life that when it changes it catches you off guard and you know things will never be the same.

I recently finished reading the latest John Grisham book, and on my way out of the house the next morning, I grabbed the book. The day ahead was consuming my thoughts, so without thinking I headed to the post office to send it to my brother Tom. He and I always sent each other books when we finished them. (I read about 3 books a week, work and pleasure combined, and he read 3 books at a time. I was a novice compared to him.) I was so engrossed in my thoughts that I was a few steps into the post office before it hit me. But when it did, it was like a roundhouse punch to the gut. Tom is not there anymore. I don’t know how long I stood there. It was the first time since he died that I had stopped to feel his absence. Really feel it. The visitation, the funeral, the friends I hadn’t seen in years; they all made those first few days bearable. And busy. Then when I got home, I stayed busy catching up (I even had a funeral to officiate the day I got back.) I went on autopilot and immersed myself in preparations at church for the coming Holy Season, not realizing I was using it as an excuse to not face the reality in front of me. I stayed so busy that friends started warning me about becoming exhausted and called me out for encouraging others to grieve, but not taking the time to do it myself. You know, that “physician heal thyself” thing?

Some folks do their mourning and crying at the funeral. Others wait until they are alone in the solitude of their homes. Evidently, I do mine at the US Post Office. I just kept looking at the book and feeling the waves of grief come over me. My emotions went back and forth, and I had no control over them. Anger and sadness and all the other feelings of grief. “Damn you for dying, Tom. I miss you and I don’t know how to do this.”

Finally, staring at the book in my hands, I felt the presence of a person near me. I had never seen this lady before, but she looked at me and asked, “Are you okay?” Still somewhat in a haze, I heard myself say, “Do you like John Grisham?” She kind of leaned away from me (a strange man in the post office with tears running down his cheeks asking if she liked a certain author. I’d lean away too.) She said, “Yes”, and I showed her the book and asked if she had read it. She said she had not and was going to get a copy soon. I handed her the book and all I could think of to say was, “Here, it’s a gift from Tom.” At first, she said, “I can’t do that”, and I said, “No, take it. Please.” And she did and thanked me. Then she broke the awkwardness and tension and said, “Is the ending that sad?”, which made me laugh, and I told her what was going on.

I got back in my car but instead of starting it, I just sat there. The more I thought about her question, “Is the ending that sad?”, the more I realized what a God moment that had been. Her question, while about the book, took me to a totally different place. No, the ending isn’t that sad, because this is not the end. In fact, there is no end. Do I believe that I will see Tom again? Absolutely. It will be in a place where God has promised there are no more tears or pain or sorrow and we will live in the presence of Jesus for all eternity. This earthly moment in time may hurt, but our lives here are just a “wisp”, says James. So, even as I grieve, I am reminded that “we do not grieve as those who have no hope.” Tom’s battle here is over, and even though we’ve been separated by the mystery of death, and even though life has changed forever, I have no doubt that one day we’ll stand together again. That’s the promise of Calvary.

The music director at the church I serve recently sent a song entitled “No More Night” for me to listen to as a possibility for an upcoming Sunday. I opened the song around the time Tom passed away, and I couldn’t listen to it at that time. Sitting in my car that day, however, I pulled it up on Apple play (I’m such a tech wiz, it only took about 15 minutes.) The song is by David Phelps, and I leave you with the words of the chorus as a promise and a prayer. “No more night, no more pain, no more tears, never crying again, and praises to the Great I Am, we will live in the light of the risen Lamb.”

And so we will.​​​​​​​