This time was different though. I was part of the family. Sitting with my niece whose been busy at college in another city with the grief now very real for her and my husband who was holding his mother who had already said goodbye to so many she'd loved.
The pastor shared in the service handout some myths about grief that could bear passing on. First, that Christians shouldn't grieve because a loved on is in heaven. Yes, we celebrate their ending of the suffering that is unavoidable living as a human on this earth. Those of us they leave behind though mourn the loss of their presence. The love and laughter we shared and expected to continue enjoying. A child who will never have their dad pick them up from school or take them to another ball practice. A wife who will never be held by the love of her life. A church that lost their drummer. An extended family that will have one less place at every holiday celebration.
When we love and live fully, we leave behind lives touched by our very presence and memories of significant as well as ordinary moments shared together. My brother in law Dwight was that kind of man. It's even difficult for me to call him my brother in law for he was truly my brother - both in a sense that in our family whether you are born into or marry to join, the difference is unnoticeable. He was also my brother in Christ and part of a larger Kingdom family that for those of us who fully join and embrace can fill the needs that birth families not always meet.
The second myth was that getting angry with God or asking Him tough questions is prohibited. Spiritual Christ followers who've walked beside those who mourn know that spiritual people need permission to be like David in the Psalms - pouring out all the emotions that encompass grief - the good, the bad, and sometimes even the ugly.
What I appreciated most in the message shared was that my sister in law and her children - my family - would not be burdened by unrealistic expectations from their church family. They will experience so many broken moments in the days to come. How blessed they are to be surround by those who understand that they can't and shouldn't just power through. In a culture that often gives the grieving three work days to mourn, those I love will spend the next year experiencing memories and milestones without - Father's Day, birthdays, Halloween, anniversaries of dating and marriage as well as the dreaded holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas bear the significance of new firsts - and none of them pleasant.
This I do know, there will be some of us who remember and just as we joined arm in arm for the benediction, our arms and hearts will be there to hold them up. While we can't erase the loss, we can remind them often that they are not alone. For we in the Kingdom will be His vessels of comfort - church members, school teachers, counselors and principals, baseball coaches, karate teachers, as well as those who share the privileged title of family will all walk beside them. Sometimes physically present speaking or remaining silent as we listen and even more so in spirit through our prayers.