Most of you know by now that I went home on October 3 to be with my Dad for his 89th birthday. Two weeks later, he died. I wrote about the experience of losing him in the sermon that I delivered Sunday November 13. I’m including that sermon with this newsletter.
I have now lost both of my parents. One thing I have learned is that it matters little how old you are when your parents die or how old they are. Age does not mitigate the grief. After my dad died, I felt like I was walking on thin ice, on a deep lake of cold water into which I might fall at any moment. Here we are a month later and I still sometimes have that feeling. It’s a feeling of dread, of momentarily feeling terribly unsure of where I am; a fear of being horribly alone and disoriented. It passes and I soon return to my normal way of being in the world. But grief is a hard thing. It doesn’t let go quickly. Your parents are your parents, and when they go your world changes completely. No matter what age you happen to be at the time, once they die, you suddenly become a lot older.
When I was a kid, I used to think it would be ideal to live to be 100. The closer I get to that age, the less ideal it appears to be. The challenges of aging are immense. The young who have challenges of their own do not see them. Perhaps it’s best that way. They say that wisdom comes with age. But that wisdom is often only gained by enduring difficult sacrifice and sorrow. One person loses her memory. Another can no longer walk without falling. One has no energy left. Another outlives her savings. Everyone who lives long enough to outlive his closest relatives carries a weight of grief that breaks the heart of the strongest. There’s nothing easy about growing old.
But there is nothing easy about life at any stage. No matter what age we are, we all face the same challenge: to become a saint and be the man or woman that Christ has called us to be; to be a person who does not run from the cross of Christ but embraces it and makes it his or her own.
As we come to the season of Christmas, a season when Christians celebrate the love of God revealed to us in the incarnate Son, we see how exaggerated our grief and fears really are. Since the Son has made us his own, and all that is God’s is His and all that is His is ours, what have we to fear from death which having no hold on Him has no lasting grip on us? Whatever stage of life we cross, our task is always the same: to let go of our fears and trust in Him who loves us perfectly. God does not promise to free us from tribulation but he does promise, “I am with you always.” And that is a word that brings peace to our souls at every age.
The Reverend Jansen String