At Dad’s funeral service, my Uncle Geoff read this passage from 2 Corinthians 1 —
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
Comfort. Nine times in just five verses. In the original Greek, one extended sentence. Nine times! The Apostle Paul knew how to drum home a concept when he wanted to. Here it is the comfort we find in the Father of Christ; comfort that we share with others; comfort that sustains us; comfort that keeps us moving forward when everything within us is pulling us back.
There is so much my father gave me in his life. Baseball cards. A college education. Encouragement. The value of his earthly gifts is immeasurable. His investment in me and in so many others will pay off for generations to come.
I am now discovering some of what Dad gave me in dying. I had the opportunity to visit Dad the day before he died. He was just waking up. It was about 6:30 am. He would call that sleeping in. I didn’t stay long, but I did ask him,
Is there any more you would like to happen before you pass, Dad?
He looked into the distance and indicated that he was satisfied that he was finished.
I then asked if we could pray together. He took my hand. I’ll never forget the strength of his grip. It was not a desperate grasp. It was like the many firm handshakes he had given so many as he pledged his friendship, his support, his honor. He was not clinging to this life; he was passing on his strength to me to carry on.
As I gripped his strong hand, I prayed in words I can’t remember, words that were not really my own. This was between Dad and God. I was just there to witness. And as a witness, I can testify that Dad felt a full measure of peace in dying. This peace gives me comfort every moment I remember Dad and miss his presence. He gave me so much in life. He gave me even more in death.
I wasn’t sure what I would write about tonight. I have so much on my mind. My book release. The formation of my nonprofit. Prayer concerns and joys of friends and family. Thoughts about topics from staying fit for better balance to the spiritual warfare of psychosis. I turned to my muse, my wife Susan, and she said I should write about how I’ve been fending off depression as I grieve. She knows I have been making a concerted effort since Dad died not to fall into a deep pit of despair. How? It has to do with this much used and often underappreciated word “comfort.”
While I miss Dad terribly, I have a strong measure of comfort in his peaceful death. He died comfortably and passed this comfort on to me. So many face much less “comfortable” endings. They carry unresolved grief over relationships that have became frayed. Jobs that have been stripped from them. Health that has eroded with each passing year. The hope of having a child eluding them. There are as many griefs as there are people to grieve and often grief resists comfort. It takes much time for many to walk the path of grief and I certainly can’t tell someone how they must go through theirs. But I can offer comfort that they are not alone in grieving, and that we can walk through it together.
The longer we live, the more we will lose. This is a curse that only becomes a blessing when we receive the comfort of Christ and share this comfort with others on the journey with us.
“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” ― A Grief Observed.