I don’t remember much about her. A child’s memory is painted with broad,undefined strokes. Sure, I remember the candy, the hugs, the smile, and all those family pictures pasted across the house. I remember too a smattering of other random details that become lodged in the brain without explanation. But there are things about a person you can never know until you are an adult. I never knew my great-grandmother in that way, and I never will in this life. This is the human tragedy.
We buried her on Tuesday and I shed many tears. Tears have always come easily to me, but even I was surprised by how much I cried. I didn’t expect to cry because I didn’t know her as others did. And while I could chalk up my sadness to lost opportunity, I know it’s not that. All Tuesday we comforted one another with the knowledge that she is in God’s care during the “in-between,” the time after life and before the resurrection. She’s crossed the Jordan. She’s on the other side.
My tears came because we are on this side. I am not sad that we are on this side. I have no desire to die. My hope is resurrection, not death. What tears at my soul is that we are on this side, that she is not, that death has joined the things in my life I can count on, and that it will consume everything I count on. I’m sad, I’m scared because as certain as we are that she is in the care of God and that she will be resurrected, I am left feeling as uncertain about my surroundings and the future as ever before.
I am enamored by the past, by the certainty, by the sure outcome. I wish I could have it all back. But the story goes on. My great-grandma’s death has signaled this to me. The illusion that we can hold the past forever is shattered. The story may get better, it may get worse, but it won’t stay the same. Which way mine, my family’s will go, I do not know. The comfort I take is that the care God has for great-grandma is the same care he has for us, the living, who are camped on this side of Jordan. We don’t need to die to have that.
This is my hope,
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God,who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.