Life is a strange and wondrous thing. It is full of laughter and tears and hurts and pains and joys—sometimes they are wrapped up in one day. A vacillation of emotions.
This week we attended a memorial service.
Memorials services and funerals are hard. They are emotional. They are sad. They are stressful. They are depleting.
This one was more so. This remembrance celebrated the life of someone we love. Very much. Especially my husband. Steve’s father passed away earlier this week.
His name was Rad. And Rad he was.
His sons said so.
I considered using this space to talk about Rad. To tell about his successes. To tell about his achievements. To tell about investments. There were many. But I want to share something different.
Several scenes and quiet events roll in my head like a silent slideshow. Each picture causes a small jilt in my heart. The moment I witnessed them I knew I was seeing God’s kingdom fleshed out as he has asked us to do. Many believe to live out the kingdom we must do great things. Many believe monumental things seem to have the greatest affect. As I grow older I realize that what has the greatest affect is what is done by and through love. Simply because it is the very right thing to do. Simply because it is the good thing to do.
I witnessed several of these moments this week.
Two sons and a mother. Two giant sons flanked their statuesque mother. She leaned into each one, leaning first one way and then the other. They stood looking at their father, her husband. Fifty –five years represented. The room was quiet. Hushed. It was hard to watch because in some ways we felt like we were intruding on their grief. It was a quiet grief. Those great shoulders of those giant sons quaked and shook. This triad was achingly hard to watch because we hurt for them. Grieved for them in the midst of our own grief. But the gentleness and care and respect these sons showed their mother touched us. Deeply.
Two sons and a mother. A storm. Thunder and lightning. Rain and freezing cold. A father’s remains to be placed in the ground. The minister asked us to stand. The three stood to pray and the wind pulled and whipped the flaps of the tent and caused the rain to pour in on the grieving three. Both sons stepped in closer to their mother, arms around her to shelter her from the harsh, unrelenting elements. But the tallest son, the youngest, lifted his long arm and placed his hand on the tent flap. He kept the rain from his mother. In that moment I saw the hand of God. In this life we will often be in a tent of grief. The storm will swell and rise around us. The rain will pour, the tent flaps will shudder, but the hand of God will shelter us. Right in the midst he will put his great arm up and he will protect us from the onslaught.
Three sisters. Two grieved for the other. Arms wrapped around the other’s shoulders. Tears spilled in floods. Grieving is such hard work; and I watched these two sisters attempt to help their oldest sister carry a burden almost too hard to bear.
A brother-in-law and a sister-in-law. They huddled against the wintery blast of rain and wind. The cemetery tents shook and scattered the cold splashes on the people inside. The sister-in-law shook in the cold. Her brother-in-law pulled his scarf from his own neck and gave it to her. The exchange was unseen by most. Unheard. No fanfare. Just this brotherly concern that fleshed out in an offering.
Four nieces and nephew. All four bent and turned to comfort and help their aunt. Normal things. Everyday things: Washing dishes. Cleaning bathrooms. Hauling trash. Doing laundry. Decorating a Christmas tree. Servants simply doing little things that needed to be done.
Five grandchildren present. Four girls and a boy wrapped in the loss of a grandfather and loss of words. Silent tears. Glances at their fathers to gauge stability. Glimpses at each other to decide how to navigate awkward, hard and painful moments. In kitchen conversations these siblings shared sweet memories of their grandfather. Their gentle tenderness for their grandmother caused deep pride and appreciation in their dads.
Two sons. Both sharing memories about their father. One verbal. One written. Both sets of words caused us to cry and to laugh. Both sets of words commemorated their father’s investment in their lives. Both sets of words declared the same—this quiet man helped mold them. And it is a molding they do not want undone.
I saw Jesus this week. In the midst of loss and grief I saw him. In the little things. In the unseen things. In people who loved this man.
I think Rad would be very pleased.
And I am quite sure that when Rad reads this he will smile and shrug his shoulders.
June 27, 1939-December 3, 2013