Question:

I was wondering how you deal with death. My grandma died last night and the wake is tomorrow and the funeral is the day after. I've never been to one before and I'm scared. I don't even know what I'm feeling, I kind of feel numb. We were really close. She had cancer and was only diagnosed last month. I didn't expect her to die this quickly. The doctor said she had at least six months. I feel like I should have spent more time with her, and I didn't and now. I don't know.


Answer:

"Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth" (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4).

So often we chase after the joy that we forget that sadness has a role. There is a place for both joy and sadness in our lives.

I'm really sorry about your loss. I still remember when my grandfather died 40 years ago. I felt numb too at the time, uncertain, and sorry that I wouldn't be able to get to know him better. He came down with Alzheimer but fortunately did not last long with the indignity of living with a non-functioning brain. It is a mixed blessing but the nice thing about your grandmother's passing is that she did not have to suffer long with the pain of cancer. Thus, don't view this merely as your loss. You certainly wouldn't have wanted her to suffer longer just to ease your conscience.

Remember the good times that you had and how close you were. And it is fine to shed tears as you think about how you will miss her presence. Sometimes it helps to write out your memories while they are fresh on your mind. They will be a joy to you later in life when you want to think back to your times with your grandmother.

We tend to not want things to change. We find comfort in the familiar and predictable. Death makes things change and, thus, it makes us uncomfortable.

Death reminds us that life here on earth is temporary. We are only passing through on our way to eternity. We make better decisions when we keep that thought in mind. "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalms 90:12).

"Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7).

Death is one of those things that cannot be prevented, delayed, or stopped. "No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death. There is no release from that war, and wickedness will not deliver those who are given to it" (Ecclesiastes 8:8). The body in the casket is merely the shell that once held your grandmother. She isn't there. She has left this world. But we honor her memory by treating with dignity the shell that once contained her. "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven" (II Corinthians 5:1-2).

When you go to the wake and the funeral, make sure you have a good friend with you.

Mr. Hamilton,

Thank you. This helped a lot. I am happy that she didn't have to suffer any longer. It had started to spread to her brain, but I'm really glad that she was still herself and didn't change yet like they said she would. We were told that if it progressed, her entire personality could be different; she could have been the complete opposite of herselfm so I am relieved that it didn't get to that point. I, like you, wish I had more time to get to know her better, in a different way, even as I grow older.

I like the idea of writing down the memories a lot.

I think that I am just terrified of death. I don't understand how everything that we have here in life can just stop one day, and not exactly knowing what comes after is scary as well. When I think about it I get really anxious. But the II Corinthians 5:1-2 passage is very calming.

Thank you.

It doesn't just stop. We proceed on to real life, if we are found faithful in God's sight. John tells us that loving God means following God's directions. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:3). When we truly love God, then that love removes the fear of death. "Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love" (I John 4:17-18). For the follower of God, death becomes the time we get to go home. "So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him" (II Corinthians 5:6-9).