On Death

The 2013-14 school year was a difficult year for my family.  One of the issues that we faced in that year was death.  In December of 2013, my wife’s great-aunt died.  I know that to many people, that sounds like a tortured relationship (“How close can you be to a great-aunt?”)  And yet, in our family, that was a very difficult death to face.  Aunt Paula was the last of her generation and dementia had already robbed her of memories.  Her death was the closing of a book for my wife’s side of our family.  It was as if a door slammed shut.  How much of that side of our family’s history will we be able to pass on to our children?

Then in February of 2014, my grandfather died.  And so it was, with those two events fresh in my mind and heart, I wrote what you see below.  Part one is from the day that I heard that he was on his deathbed.  The second part was written upon my return from the funeral.  In remembrance of our lost loved ones (the previous February my wife’s grandmother died) I submit the following:

February 9, 2014

(I apologize for the length of this post.  Just some rambling thoughts…)

“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water…” (Genesis 1:2)

I recently finished teaching a lesson about waves to a science class.  I had the kids stand, hold hands, and then move their arms in a wave motion to demonstrate an important, but often misunderstood/overlooked aspect of wave motion.  When a typical wave moves across the water (for example) the wave moves, but the actual molecules of water simply rise and fall in their place (until the wave reaches shallow water, when the top of the wave starts moving faster than the bottom, causing the wave to break.)

Genesis 1:2 takes on special meaning once we realize the science of wave action and pair that with our theological understanding of “The Holy Spirit” as the Ruach—the breath of God.  Wave-action is produced by wind and we know that the Holy Spirit can certainly ‘make waves!”

Nerdiness notwithstanding, as I read about Grandpa Weber’s declining health, I think about waves; I think about how God has been at work in our lives.  Here is a man that by any worldly measure would—frankly—be considered “anonymous.”  A man who joined the workforce at an age when most people of my generation were more concerned with sports and impressing the opposite sex.  A man who was a “simple” farmer—simple in the sense that he did not build a farming empire.  Instead, he farmed as in days of old:  a farm that existed to feed his family and bring in a livable, modest income.

And so, by outward measure, we are talking of an unremarkable molecule.

But the wave.

A molecule that stayed in one place through all of its ups and downs, has seen his influence ripple out throughout the world.  His children and their spouses have taught in schools, served churches, and raised Godly families across the United States.  Their reach has been incalculable.  How many people have had their lives changed by the Holy Spirit working through my aunts and uncles and my parents?  And how many of them have gone on to change the world themselves?

And the wave went on.

The grandchildren!  The grandchildren have branched out further than their parents, going into new, diverse fields and FURTHER spreading across the country and even the world.  Now starting families of their own, the grandchildren are passing the wave on to yet another generation.

A small molecule?  Maybe… by the world’s standards, I’m sure.  But to those who know better, we see the wave.

Grandpa, you will never read this, and I’m coming to grips with the reality that I will not see you again.  But you need to know, that your story has been told.  It has been told in our living rooms and it has been told in classrooms.  Your story is the story of us–of our family.  And it is also the story of the Holy Spirit at work throughout the world.  We are molecules that are part of an amazing wave… one that has its beginning in Genesis 1:2.

The Lord is preparing a place for you and it incredibly sad for us.  We pray that the Lord continues to hold you in His hand securely, tightly, as He calls you home.  And may God grant us peace as well.

February 19, 2014

Well, we just got back from my grandfather’s funeral on Monday and there are so many thoughts that come to mind.  Swimming around in my mind are seemingly disconnected thoughts about the love I have for my family members… the sadness at the thought that no matter how hard I try, I can’t explain “the farm” to my children… memories… faith… family…

One of the comments that was made a few times by myself and a couple of the cousins was a near-shock that nothing had seemingly changed at Trinity Lutheran Church in Foster.  It was like we walked back into 1985.  Every Lutheran church I have ever attended always has that one lady who sings loud, sings well, and sings a little bit high.  I kept expecting to hear that voice Monday.  And then I started having a memory of being in that church on a Sunday morning, singing the hymn “‘Tis Good Lord to be Here.”  What a mundane memory.  Where did that come from?? And yet it popped up the entire time I was there.

And then another memory flashed:  It was a memory of Grandpa Weber, kicking a soccer ball when I was in kindergarten.  I can’t remember if it was at our house in Kansas or at the farm, but I remember him kicking the ball because I wanted to play soccer.

So ordinary and simple.  Those “simple and ordinary” memories are the ones that have brought a smile to my face over the past week.

And that’s when it hit me:  That is what God has done and continues to do.

The reminiscing with family of times that are long gone by and will not return is always tinged with sadness.  So, in order to “not mourn as those without hope” we turn to Jesus.  Our Lord used embarrassingly small armies to win in battle, even using musical instruments and lanterns.  Our God sent our savior not as a strong and mighty warrior, but as a baby.  When Elijah witnessed the Lord first-hand, it was as a gentle whisper.  God even used death–the devil’s surest victory–as a means to defeat death.

I started to think back to “‘Tis Good Lord to be Here.”  The last verse of that hymn sums it up very well:

Tis good Lord to be here

Yet we may not remain

But since thou bidst us leave the mount

Come with us on the plain

It was great to see everyone and share those memories.  It was a “mountain moment” in a sense.  But now we all have to get back to busy lives and jobs.  And something inside of me protests that notion.  Something says, “Wait!  Grandpa just died!!”  Part of me wants to stay on that mountain with my family in worship to the Lord and in mutual consolation.

But we do not return to life alone.  Indeed, we didn’t travel to Foster alone.

And I take GREAT comfort in that.

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