The hardest part about grief is saying goodbye. You think you’ve moved on, but it comes around for another encounter. In some ways, you never really say goodbye. You can go your whole life grieving over the loss of someone (or multiple people). The level of hurt may lessen or vary, but when someone you’re close to exits out of your life and into eternity, there’s a feeling that a chasm has been created that no span of time can cross.
That’s how I feel about my dad’s death. It’s been 3 years now since he’s passed. The levels of grief I’ve experienced in that time have varied. I’ve written several posts on grief, you can probably search for them or look back at the past 3 January’s. Currently, I don’t feel overly sad. There’s some grief or sadness, of course, but it’s not the same as 3 years ago. Last year was so busy and exciting with big life changes and this January finds me settling into the fruit of 2013’s efforts. But still there’s a little grieving happening at the back of my mind that comes up every now and then.
For instance, just tonight one of my favorite songs about death, “The Angels were Singing” by Matthew Perryman Jones (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7wP4UReP3Y) came on the shuffle on iTunes. (I mentioned this song in last year’s post) I had to stop my wife and force us both to be quiet and listen and soak up the moment. As the final bridge crescendoed I could vaguely see myself back in that cold hospice room during the final minutes. All at once, the grief came back. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake the grief completely. Not that it controls me, but it’ll always be an emotion I must bear.
Another song by Jones, “Stones from the Riverbed” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ua1eY4pfyk) also deals with grief (I think). He ultimately concludes, “It’s OK to say goodbye.” Though you may be saying goodbye for the rest of your life, it’s okay that you let go. I think Paul is making a similar point in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He’s urging the Thessalonians that they should grieve with perspective and not as those “who have no hope.” Those who “fell asleep” in Christ (that is, they are believers) will be seen again at Christ’s return. They’re in good hands. You may say goodbye, it’s okay. The hole they left here will remain, but only for a little while.