She was in her 80’s. Her mother had recently turned 100. She spent every day at the nursing home at her mother’s side and when her mother took a turn for the worse, she was beside herself. Her mother was in immense pain towards the end and the daughter didn’t know what to do. The staff did all they could to keep her comfortable and then the mother passed. All of the daughter’s devotion to her mother over the last four years culminated into sad tears of a heartbroken 80 year-old turned four-year-old sitting at the bedside of her dead mother.
Honestly, we don’t know how to deal with grief, loss, death, and dying. It is something that we don’t know how to handle. We feel that when we grieve it should only be for a little while. Bereavement periods are only a span of a week or less at work places and then it’s back to the grind as if nothing happened. And we like it that way. We feel we must move on. Why? Because we can’t handle death.
In two years I’ve done 24 funerals, three of which have been for someone under the age of 70. One was for a baby. Each time, no one knew how to deal with death and dying. They kept going back to praying for the miracle. Praying against hope that things would not end in the inevitable.
Death is real. So is grief. So is pain. We don’t know how to deal with them. As pastors, ours is the calling to walk with them through these times of pain, grief, loss, death and dying. There is an art to dying. An art to dying well. Ours is to help the family walk through this time. Ours is to help the dying to die well. Each bedside that I’ve sat at, holding hands with those about to die, each asked me to pray that they would be taken soon. They knew where they were going and they were ready. Their family on the other hand was not.
Our job as pastors is to help the family move from not being ready, to accepting not only reality of death and dying, but to help them see the glorious end. We walk with them through the beginning stages of death and we walk with them through the times of grief.
Grief itself is a process with ups and downs. It’s a time where people realize they can’t just up and call a loved one because they no longer exist on this earth. As pastors, we are to walk with them through their grief as Christ walked with them. We must remember and remind them as Jesus said “God blessed those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt 6:4 NLT). We must be Jesus to them and help them see the comfort they have in God. The only comfort in life and in death. In body and in soul.
As pastors, never forget this. Never forget the fact that you are Christ to those who are experiencing pain of losing a family member, you are Christ to those who are grieving the loss, and Christ to those who are dealing with death, dying and the inevitable grief we all will one day feel. It is emotionally draining to do so, I agree with that, but the rewards are amazing. The reward is being able to walk with the family during this time and be Christ to those in pain, grief, loss, dealing with death and dying. Knowing that you are able to be Christ in such a time is a reward we receive as pastors.