Karen’s Sculpture, “The Spirit Within”
Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
Steadfast – Immovable, firm in purpose, belief, faith,
firmly established, unwavering, loyal.
When God took my husband Neil home almost eleven years ago, I would say that grief over his passing held me steadfast for a long period of time. Losing my daughter four years after him however, brought a whole new meaning to me with the word steadfast.
Watching my daughter suffer for two years, as much from the treatments as the cancer that eventually took her life, my grief returned with a steadfastness I found unwavering in its ferocity.
In my anguish and pain, I cried out to God complaining that He had in the past always been my strength and comforter through all the pain this life had thrown my way, so where was He now?
He answered me in a very different way than He had in the past by sending a Christian friend who encouraged me to take a course called GriefShare. My friend had lost her son to suicide two years before and was taking this course the second time around. I had seen a positive change in her handling of her grief, so I stepped out of my comfort zone and into unknown territory. Could I handle listening to more grief?
By the time I began the course two months after Karen died, I figured I was on the road to coping fairly well. I decided I would just attend the first night and see how it all went. Well, I was still there when the course ended the first week in July. It brought me a better understanding that I wasn’t in this alone, and hearing others sharing their stories of grief and loss helped to bring some semblance of healing to me. Everyone handles grief in different ways at different times. The old adage that “misery loves company” is not true. However, belief in a loving God using others who have dealt with the same pain, certainly was for me.
Recuperating from my hip operation one month before Karen’s passing, brought me a forced time to heal, rest and read. I began by re-reading a novel I had read a few years back about an angel called… you guessed it. . STEDFAST. I know that Karen is not an angel and that God created them as completely different beings.
I also know Angels play a large role in the spiritual, as well as the material world. Karen had an angel visit her when she was very ill with shingles 15 years before her cancer.
I found Roger Elwood’s writing of Stedfast (Old English Spelling) even though it was a novel, to be correct in what the Bible relates about angels and the dying process. I have quoted some of his book here in the hope it will bring a measure of comfort and understanding to others suffering from loss along with the fear of dying.
“There is something else about grief. It confuses matters. It screams out the word “tragedy” and applies this to the deceased when it is better used to describe the survivors. Grief is the realization that those left behind are now going to have to get used to living life without someone very important still around, someone who has meant a great deal to them.
That really is the essence of grief. As such, grief is a bit dishonest, a kind of charade, if the dead person is a Christian and as soon as death has claimed him or her, their soul is ushered by my kind into eternity. Grief wails and moans about the tragedy of someone so young dying, while so much of their life remained unlived.
Why is it a tragedy for them if they live again, instead, by the Father’s side, in the company of angels, and walk streets of gold?
If they have died… through a long illness, an illness that caused continual pain, that took life from them with slow agony, and then… they are transformed into a body very much like an angel’s, and now have entered Heaven where such will never afflict them again– where is the tragedy?
Here however, is the true tragedy, the tragedy that transcends all others…. If the victim is not a Christian, if they have rejected Christ as Saviour and Lord, and death whisks them away instead to damnation, their opportunity for salvation gone forever — this is the tragedy! …. for those left on this planet who find such souls torn forever from their presence, this is where talk of true tragedy is right on the mark. For the only way there can be a reunion with loved ones is if they, too, are damned. Yet, in one of the ghastly ironies that have followed the sin of Adam and Eve, it is a truth, a pathetic but unchangeable truth, that in the punishment of Hell, love dies, has no place — love goes up in smoke, you might say.”
Like the rest of us, Karen was not a perfect human who never sinned. She accepted Jesus as her Saviour and her declaration of faith assured me I will see her again one day, along with Neil and my other loved ones who believed and have gone on before me.
Why do I believe this while so many in the world do not? Because I am steadfast daily in the reading and study of God’s Word. I communicate with Him throughout my day in prayer, and He is steadfast in His unending love and care for my well being. I know my grief will never fully go away, but as I keep my focus on Him the pain lessens. I also know I will never fully get over losing my child while I am to remain on this earth, but I am steadfast in my belief that Jesus has done what is best for my dear daughter, and that He is doing what is best for me. He is steadfast and true.
His word tells me He is not going to change like ‘shifting shadows’ nor that I am ‘grasping after the wind’. He will never leave this aging vessel to flounder in my grief alone, as long as I remain steadfast in Him.
I found these words from Wallace Henley’s book —“Your First Step In Heaven” heartwarming, and picture perfect in my mind’s eye of Karen and Neil’s first steps into Heaven. This is what I too have to look forward to when it is my time to depart from this earth into my heavenly citizenship. He begins….
“Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) perhaps captured the meaning of ‘parerchomai’ (pass or pass on) and the description of the dying process more accurately and beautifully than any modern writer, when he put it like this:
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a spec of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says:
‘There, she is gone!’ ‘Gone Where?’
Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: ‘There, she is gone!’ There are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: ‘Here she comes!’… And that is dying.”