The day, October 21, began as countless days before had begun. The golden orb of the rising sun slowly but certainly rose along the southeastern horizon. As slowly and as certainly as death stalks the living from the moment they enter this world so the rising sun stalks majestically across the sky.
The raucous, ear-shattering clatter of the alarm clock interrupts peaceful dreams and quiet rest and the warm covers lie empty to be embraced by the cold. A new day with new experiences and new ideas to face and consider. Another day of the Lord’s whose mercies are new every morning.
Last night’s board meeting was conducted with dispatch. Tonight I’ll make quick work of the business they gave me to do. I must not forget to finish the paper for the teacher’s meeting this coming Friday.
The scrambled eggs for breakfast were delicious. Even the little ones ate up their portions.
I wonder how the folks are doing. They hoped to be back from their vacation in New England sometime the middle of this week. It was foolish of me to worry about an accident. I sure hope they had an enjoyable time.
Time to go to work. Better not postpone it any longer. A sloppy wet kiss from the littlest one, warm affectionate kisses from my wife and daughter, cheery good-byes, and I’m on my way to school.
The five minute walk is a thoughtful one. What would be the best way to introduce fractions to fifth graders? How much time should I spend on the French and Indian War? I’m sure glad the tapes of the speeches given at the teachers’ convention held in Grand Rapids arrived this morning so that we can use them this Friday. Since I have to go to Sheldon to select books Friday morning I had better forget about going to Dordt Collage to hear some of the lectures on science. Our little girl, two years old, it hardly seems possible. The dolls the grandmothers sent certainly made her eyes sparkle. Too bad they couldn’t have been with us Monday night when we celebrated with a little party.
Three-thirty. Another day of work is completed. It sure is good to sit back and relax for a few minutes.
The skies are blue, the sun shines brightly, the day was not much different than any others. As it began so it seemed that it was going to end. No cloud to chill the air or water the ground.
The reverie of the moment was soon to be shattered into thousands of splintered pieces. Dumb silence heard the dreadful news, “Your mother has been killed in an accident.” What was there to say? “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth because thou didst it. Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand” (Psalm 39:9, 10).
Death, the final enemy, had found itself another victim. With swift violence it overcame, leaving no time for farewells. In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, as in the last days when the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised, death brought to the grave. Sorrow, grief, despair became the lot of us who were left behind.
The next few days were more like a nightmare than reality. The plane ride home. The long delays in Sioux Falls and O’Hare Airports. The late arrival in Grand Rapids in thick fog which closed down the airport about an hour later for eight hours. Meeting the brothers, dad and my sister. Going to the funeral home to make funeral arrangements. Picking out a casket. Seeing mother that evening for the first time since early August and this time in a coffin. Receiving the condolences of relatives and friends. The funeral and the cemetery. It is hard to put into words the feelings that overwhelm a person in a time of sorrow.
Wondering why this had to happen, I remembered a rather large land turtle I met many years ago along a busy highway. He was about to cross it and would have met certain destruction. Before he reached the concrete I stopped him with a heavy stick and turned him about in the other direction. He determinedly turned about again to face the speeding traffic. Again I stood in the way with…the heavy stick. With stubborn persistence he began attacking the stick but all to no avail. Finally, after many unsuccessful attempts to overcome the stick he lumbered slowly into the safety of the tall grass. Thinking upon this afterward I could imagine the turtle telling his family about the difficulties and afflictions he had suffered that morning – how he couldn’t understand why he had to suffer such cruel treatment. Contemplating the actions and imagined thoughts of the turtle, I no longer wondered why I had to bear this grievous loss but rather, why did I fight so stubbornly against it? Certainly the Lord makes all things work together for our good.
“Blessed are they that morn for they shall be comforted.” How I dreaded going to the funeral home. My whole being cried out “let me alone – I’ll overcome this sorrow and grief in my own way.” But the Lord, being gracious, refused to let me go my wayward way. The many expressions of sympathy and consolation that were spoken the two nights in the funeral home brought immeasurable comfort and relief. Wondrously, by means of His people, God sent the comfort that I was hoping to find in my own way.
On Saturday afternoon the funeral was conducted. Together in the church under the direction of the infallible Scripture to be led “to the Rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2). There to find consolation and refuge from the overwhelming storms of this life. There to be sheltered in the time of strife and trial. There to cast our burdens on the Lord. There to receive the blessed assurance that God, who is so much higher than I and who leadeth in the deep ways of death and sorrow, also renews the sorrowing by his comforting grace.
A loved one has been laid to rest. No longer does she have to wage the desperate struggle against sin and death. Her presence is missed but not forgotten, for death brings to an end life, but memories live on. Who is the mother who can forget, or who would wish to forget, the suckling child that was violently taken away by death? Who the husband who can forget the loving wife, the child its loving mother, or the father his growing son? Their memory lives on and the hurt caused by this separation, although relieved by passing time, will never be entirely forgotten. So also the Lord forgets not His own though they be dead in sins and misery. Even in the hour of intense sorrow and grief He leads His own to the rock where they become “more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). He ministers to their needs and binds up their broken hearts.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 31 No. 1 March 1971