My wife and I take a daily walk with our dog at a nearby cemetery where my wife’s mother, father, and step-father are buried. We also have two side-by-side cemetery plots located there that are reserved for us (more on that detail in post #2). Walking at the cemetery every day got me thinking about death and sparked a couple of posts, the first one below:
“Jesus wept.” – John 11:35
We’re all familiar with John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible. But why did Jesus weep in that particular circumstance, already knowing He was going to raise His friend, Lazarus, from the dead? Many have speculated, but perhaps part of the reason was because Jesus’s heart was weighted-down in perfect empathy for Lazarus’s grieving sisters, Mary and Martha. I was recently reminded of a time when I was less-than-empathetic as an immature new believer. First, a little background.
My wife’s mother (daughter and mother in above photo, circa 1970) died way back in January 1984 at the age of 68. Dorothy was a longtime cigarette smoker and had developed a progressive case of emphysema. The last couple of years of her life, it became increasingly difficult, make that torturous, for her just to take a single, satisfying breath.
Dorothy was raised as a Roman Catholic and even spent a few of her childhood years as a boarder at the former Academy of the Sacred Heart, located at 8 Prince Street in Rochester, a consequence of the breakup of her parents’ marriage. Dorothy grew up and got married herself, but divorced her husband in the early-1950s, which was quite scandalous at that time. She then married my wife’s father, resulting in the Catholic church excommunicating her (formal letters of excommunication were issued from the diocese in those days). Dorothy subsequently did not attend church, but she raised her daughter (my wife) as a Catholic, including four years of Catholic high school. As Dorothy approached the end of her life, her last husband, a “Protestant” (more on him in the next post), contacted the local Catholic parish and a priest visited a few times and administered “last rites.” However, Dorothy also heard the genuine Gospel and accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior by faith alone.
Dorothy was taken to the hospital in late-December, 1983 in extreme discomfort, but there was nothing the medical staff could do. She was returned home and died a few days later.
Okay, now comes the embarrassing part.
My wife cried heavy tears at her mother’s funeral. I was surprised. We were new (aka immature) believers at that time and the Gospel church we attended encouraged members to have a constant, “Stepford-ish” smile on their faces. I actually admonished my wife not to cry because her mother was in Heaven and no longer suffering. What a dummy I was. I was putting cold, detached theology ahead of my wife’s deep sorrow at the loss of her mother. What I actually needed at that moment was a heavy dose of Jesus’s empathy.
Yes, there is the JOY that is ours, in all circumstances, as a part of being in Christ, and we must not allow grief and sorrow to completely consume us, BUT let’s allow our brothers and sisters (and ourselves) to work through grief and sorrow, by God’s grace, without adding to their burdens by making them feel guilty.
To see Cemetery Tales, #2, click here.