Last year on this day Janet and I were on a cruise in Hawaii. We had gone out several days in advance of boarding the ship in an effort to get accustomed to the time zone differences in anticipation of celebrating our anniversary and beginning our cruise on Aug. 24th. We had toured Honolulu, been escorted around the island by a driver who worked for the Hawaii 5-0 production company driving the stars and had seen the memorial at Pearl Harbor, which was something that both of us have always wanted to do.
We departed for the ship on the morning of the 24th, our actual 40th anniversary and were only on board one day when we received a call that Janet’s mother, Nancy, had unexpectedly passed away – one year ago today. While we knew that Janet’s father was in failing health, and could possibly have passed away at any time, we really weren’t even remotely thinking that Nancy was in any sort of grave medical danger. But, as so often happens in life, we were blindsided by the news and immediately made arrangements to get back to the mainland.
First, we had to get off the ship and we couldn’t even get flights off the islands until the next day, so we spend the night in our stateroom, disembarked the next morning, flew to Honolulu from our port in Maui and then on to Dallas – eventually arriving in Richmond, VA where we were picked up by two of our children who had driven from Indianapolis to meet us. We drove the hour to Williamsburg and for the next several days, mourned with the rest of the family and conducted a memorial service for Janet’s mother. We headed back to Indy only for Janet to return two weeks later – to be with her father before his death 18 days after the death of his wife. Two tragedies in 18 days – more heartache than I can describe and the loss of both parents for Janet and her two sisters.
I was honored to be involved in the services for both John and Nancy, who I have known for almost my entire life. And I would be short of the truth if I didn’t admit that the last year has been a difficult one – for both of us, but especially for Janet. After all, I lost both of my parents many years ago and am now older than my father was when he died and I have spent more years without my Dad than with him. But the memories of the grieving for both my parents is still fresh in my mind – made even the more vivid by the death of Janet’s parents.
When I went through this myself, and have counseled many others through the grieving process, it is rare that someone really starts to heal until after the one year anniversary of the loss. This is especially true when the deceased is a parent. And so today marks the one year anniversary of Nancy’s passing. And we feel her loss in all areas of the family. What has made the process even more difficult is the upcoming anniversary of John’s passing as well – on Sept. 12th. I have a sneaking suspicion that we must get through that before Janet can really be on the path to significant healing. Because tomorrow morning, waking up on the 26th without a mother will not be a new feeling for Janet, or me. And while we won’t ever forget, it will get easier – many of you have been through loss and I am sure that you can vouch for the truth of this statement.
The verse for this evening reflects the temporary nature of our earthly lives, but the awesome power of God. We are told by the apostle John in the book of Revelation that God will provide for us a new order of things and that there will be no more mourning. In fact, if is one of the verses that I used at Nancy’s memorial. John tells us, in Rev. 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
My encouragement this evening is that even though we go through great pain and grieving when we lose a loved one, there is hope for those of us who have eternal life. Eventually, there will be a new order of things and all the ways of this earth will be replaced by a wonderful heavenly existance. My prayer is that you will look forward to the day when we will live in eternal unity with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. In the meantime, God will ease your suffering in this life as you turn to Him and begin the healing process of loss in your life. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…