Posts Tagged With: Mourning

Meditating on the Beatitudes: Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted.

This is the second in a series of meditations on each of the Beatitudes.

Blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted.

I’ve got to admit, I wanted to have this up two days ago. However, I ended up typing out the Beatitude, staring at it, and wondering: what’s so great about mourning? I kept thinking about Aunt Sarah’s funeral. We kept saying it was wonderful that she was finally with God, at rest. Why is mourning a blessing?

So, I took advantage of a great technological advancement (which I highly recommend). I pulled up the Bible online and searched for the word “mourn.” I think this is a great way to get more information on a topic because you can literally see every instance the word is mentioned in the Bible. I know that sometimes a particular word isn’t used, so it’s not a definitive topical resource, but it’s pretty awesome!

For the word “mourn,” the #3 result was quite enlightening…

And the Lord said to Samuel: How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, whom I have rejected from reigning over Israel? –1 Samuel 16:1a

Ah-ha! I kept thinking of mourning as being about death. However, what if mourning isn’t about death, but about loss and love?

Samuel didn’t mourn because Saul was dead (he wasn’t), he mourned because he loved Saul. He believed in Saul’s ability to lead Israel as God’s chosen King. However, because  Saul chose to defy God, Saul was lost to Samuel. Samuel saw someone he loved turn his back on God. He watched Saul’s life spiral out of control.

Sound familiar? I’ve watched people I love deny God, renounce their faith, turn to drugs, consume themselves with chasing after wealth and other pleasures. As we go down separate paths, my heart aches. I mourn.

To mourn a loss, you have to love. There are no two ways about it. I certainly don’t mourn the loss of the job I hated or the apartment that was too small. Not all loss is mourned. It’s only when we are attached to someone that we mourn their exit from our lives, in whatever form that exit takes. When we mourn, it means we opened ourselves up, loved someone, believed in their potential, wanted the very best for them. We mourn because we’ve lost someone we held close to our heart.

This is why those who mourn are blessed. Because they have loved and hoped and believed despite the fact that the one they held so dear could and would be lost. You can never really lose what you haven’t loved. For those who open their hearts up, dare to love, see the best and greatest in another, even though they know they could very possibly be cast aside; when the one they loved and believed in chooses to walk away, they will be comforted.

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else, Meditations | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farewell Aunt Sarah Pt 2: What She Left Behind

Sunday, my husband Scott and I were called upon to help out with the sorting of his Great-Aunt Sarah’s things. We laid out her worn jewelry, her little ceramic birds and angels, her collectibles from the states she’d traveled to, the afghans she made, her salt and pepper shaker collection, and her blue cornflower CorningWare. Over the years, her possessions were trimmed down; when she moved from her house in Carnegie to the independent living apartments in Norman, and again when she moved to assisted living. By the time she passed, she had only the things she loved the most. Every chipped ceramic bird, every tattered string of beads had a story. After spending so much time lately clearing clutter out of our house, I was loathe to drag anything back in, but I told Scott he could have any keepsakes he wanted. In the end, we didn’t take much. A salt and pepper set in the shape of a toaster with two slices of bread, a few pieces of jewelry, a book, and some other things that reminded Scott of the happy days when the family would load up the car and go see Great-Aunt Sarah.

At some point when we were sitting with Aunt Sarah on her final day, someone started asking about her will. Naturally, this caused a little tension, as it would in any situation. There was an additional bit of frustration because her will was of absolutely no consequence. Aunt Sarah had nothing. She was a widow and a retired beautician, not exactly a position of prosperity. What’s more is that she didn’t care about such things. Every Christmas and every birthday, Scott and I were very deliberate in our gift buying because we didn’t want to burden her with useless things. She would always insist that we not get her anything, but we would press her until she told us something she needed. A new lamp to crochet by, a bottle of perfume, some money to have her hair permed. We were always searching for some thing to give her, but when the time came, all she really wanted was to see the family, to hug and kiss the children, and to know everyone was healthy and happy and loved.

At the service, no one talked about how hard she worked to increase her personal wealth or what a big, beautiful house she lived in (she did have a wonderful home!). Everyone spoke of her faith, how much she loved and longed for God, how much she loved her family and friends, and how she found joy in caring for others. Aunt Sarah left a mark on everyone she met and it wasn’t because of her fine jewelry (she had none), her priceless artwork (none), her luxurious car (again, none), or any other treasures of this world. She was an inspiration because she filled herself with God’s love and passed that love on to others.

The message hit home for me. Hard. We’ve been longing to buy a house of our own, and as I look at houses online, my tastes have slowly become pricier. At some point, I added $50,000 onto our price range and I’ve started disqualifying homes that would be wonderfully suitable for us based on their lack of luster. Yes, yes, this house is very homey and would work very well for us, but I want something that looks a little nicer. So, the focus has somehow shifted to pleasing whomever is looking at the house, rather than the people living in the house. I’ve felt the same shift in other areas. When I’m looking at purses, I focus on finding one that looks nicer and pricier, rather than one that meets my needs and has the appropriate pockets. When I look at my little sensible car, I wish I’d gotten a little SUV instead. Even the gold-plated crucifix I wear on my neck should be replaced with one of solid gold. This is clearly not the way of life God intended for us.

And that which fell among thorns, are they who have heard, and going their way, are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit. –Luke 8:14

Aunt Sarah’s funeral really struck a nerve in me because she was a childless Aunt, and so am I. When I die, what will my nieces and nephews say and feel about me? Will they say, “Aunt Rebecca showed us God’s love” or muse over my obsession with putting on appearances? Aunt Sarah’s life was full of good fruit. There were so many people there who saw Jesus in her and there wasn’t a soul present who would crave any other sentiment at their passing. So why do we all spend so much time and energy chasing after the material things that don’t matter?

So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God. And he said to his disciples: Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat; nor for your body, what you shall put on. The life is more than the meat, and the body is more than the raiment. Consider the ravens, for they sow not, neither do they reap, neither have they storehouse nor barn, and God feedeth them. How much are you more valuable than they? And which of you, by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit? –Luke 12:21-25

For some time now, God has been telling me to embrace a life of greater poverty. Reduce my standard of living and increase my spiritual walk. Over the ages, we have been given so many examples. Jesus Himself was poor and had no earthly possessions beyond the clothes He wore. We can also look to the example of St. Francis, St. Clare, Mother Theresa, and others who chased after God instead of chasing riches. And now, we can also look to the simple life of love Aunt Sarah lived.

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else, On a personal note... | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farewell Aunt Sarah, Part 1

This week, I’m afraid I’ve fallen a little behind in my blogging, despite just getting started. Sunday morning, my husband, Scott received a call that his Great-Aunt Sarah, at 92, had gone into kidney failure on top of pneumonia and wasn’t expected to last much longer. She passed away just before 2am Monday morning, with Scott holding one of her hands, and his dad, who was her favorite nephew, holding the other.

Ever since Scott’s birthday in April, she’s been in and out of the hospital, starting with a bruised leg that just wouldn’t heal. In June, she was moved “temporarily” from her assisted living apartment to the nursing home, but was still in and out of the hospital. Scott and his brothers and sister have been doing whatever they can, making sure her laundry is done, visiting her, and always making sure she got her chocolate milkshakes in the evening.

Last month, Scott’s parents flew in from their home in Saudi Arabia (long story short, Scott’s dad works in Saudi, however, due to Scott’s dark complexion, I have fooled a few people into thinking that’s where they’re all from), first his mother, then when Aunt Sarah was scheduled for debridement surgery on her leg, his father came. The whole family was together for the first time since Christmas. We finished moving her things out of the apartment and prepared ourselves for the worst. But the worst didn’t happen. Aunt Sarah felt much better after the surgery, and was moved to a nearby specialty hospital for treatment. Then, she had staph, but she started healing, all the same. She was back and forth between the regular hospital and the specialty hospital, but she was steadily doing better. Scott’s parents started planning for how to provide in-home healthcare for her. Aunt Sarah took four painful steps, the first she’d been able to take in almost two months. Then, a few days later, she was gone.

I rarely ever went to see Aunt Sarah by myself, but since this whole thing started, I’ve had a fair amount of alone time with her. It was something that was awkward at first, but as time went on, it was easier for me to make conversation with her. I learned to ask about the thing she loved most: Her husband. The first time I asked her about him, I was shocked at her candor. They were only married for 13 years, and he passed away over 40 years ago, but she was still so anxious to see him again. Aunt Sarah told me that she wasn’t sure why God was keeping her around so long, but she was ready. Ready to be reunited with her sister and her husband, to see her mother again, to meet her Savior.

When I joined the family at the specialty hospital on Sunday, it was bittersweet. We all took turns holding her hand and everyone had a story to tell. At 3pm, they turned off the breathing machine and moved to “comfort procedures.” The nurse removed her dentures, washed her face, combed her hair. We all got a little teary over her hair, because we never were able to get someone to come and do a perm for her. Aunt Sarah was a career beautician, and had her own beauty shop attached to her house. To see her laying there with her hair in less than perfect condition was especially heartbreaking.

The whole day was a flurry of family coming in and out, seeing their dear Aunt Sarah for the last time, telling their stories, and trying to find the right words to sum up who she was and what she meant to them. She never had children of her own (she had a hysterectomy long before she married, from what I understand) but there was no shortage of family members who considered her a second mother or second grandmother.

As the afternoon turned into evening, the family members who had come from out of town had to go. We started reading Bible verses, mainly Psalms, and playing hymns for her.

I went home just before midnight and Scott called me just before 2am, a few minutes after Aunt Sarah had passed. By then, it was only Scott and his parents left keeping watch. As soon as he told me she was gone, I headed back. When I got back to the hospital,  I went down the corridor and into the room, just like I had 100 times already that day, but as I walked in and saw the vessel she had left behind, I broke down crying. It hit me like a bucket of ice water. There are no words to describe the utter emptiness that was left behind. Scott’s beloved great-aunt, his second grandmother was gone.

We mourn, but not as those who have no hope. We know she’s free, now. She’s gone home.

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else, On a personal note... | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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