Glory and Grief

Recently, I held glory in one hand and grief in another.

Save us a spot at the table.

Save us a spot at the table.

My friend was dying of pancreatic cancer. Short of a miracle, I knew she would soon see our Savior face to face. I went to see her not knowing how much she might have declined since my last visit. She was weak, her breathing was labored, but there was a look of knowing in her eyes as I prayed for her and with her. I prayed the glory prayers and promises and one of my favorite verses from Psalm 16:11, “We thank you that in your presence is fullness of joy and in your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

After praying with my friend and watching her husband and mother wipe tears from their faces while I did, I prepared to leave. She made a fierce effort to rise, and she sat on the side of the bed with her husband’s help, smiling a wide toothy grin as her husband and I said slightly funny things. In that effort I saw the strong, determined woman I know and love, but I saw more. Hope? A resolve to stay faithful until her final breath? A desire to live the gospel until the end by being attentive and loving, even though the effort exhausted her? Whatever it might have been, she still testified to the power of Christ in her weakness.

As a believer, at our death we are finally united with our true home—Jesus, heaven, and eternal life. Everyday we wrestle against all the futility and pain of a fallen world, but in death there is finally a union with glory, truth, love, and peace. For the believer, that is hope and cause for great rejoicing. We exhale weak and weary in one world and inhale in another, whole and holy. Death is a final victory for believers, but it is also evil’s last stand. We will be raised. Death will die. In death we surrender to the impact of the fall, but mock evil’s plans as we do because death won’t hold us, just like it didn’t hold Jesus. We embrace eternal life in death and that is glorious.

When I got to my car, I let go. Weeping with one side of my heart and glorying in eternal life and God’s grace with the other. I cried with helpless abandon and worshiped as I did. Scripture says believers grieve, but not as those without hope.

As I sat there, helplessly mopping my face with the one pathetic tissue I had in the car, I recalled what had taken place. There was glory and grief with us in that room. The hand holding, the kiss, the stroking of her face all seemed like goodbye—a place of deep grief. In prayer I was helping us both catch a glimpse of her new home—a place of glory and grace. We recalled together the hope found in Christ.

When I walked out the door I said, “I’ll see you later,” and I meant it.

(I actually saw her one more time before she joined our Savior today and tasted love, peace, and joy like she never experienced here. Save a spot for me at the banquet table, Melanie!)

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5 Responses to Glory and Grief

  1. Laura Royal says:

    Thank you Linda, for reminding us of the tension between sadness and hope that we live in. It’s confusing, but I will take it over not knowing Jesus. Thanks for articulating it so well.

  2. JD says:

    I was drawn to two passages as I read your blog post. The first is from the 2nd letter to Corinth.

    “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Cor. 4:17

    Piper reminds me that our troubles are only “light and momentary”, of course, within a gospel-oriented context of eternity. What an interesting pendulum we experience as believers: a theology full of heart-wrenching sorrow and, at the same time, unfathomable joy in knowing our future hope. Hold firm.

    The second thought isn’t so much a passage as it is a complete poem from one of my favorite authors. Do you remember this poem, Aunt Linda, and the movie Wit, which you and I watched together? The poem seemed fitting as I read your blog.

    “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
    For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
    Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
    From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
    Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
    And soonest our best men with thee do go,
    Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
    Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
    And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
    And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
    And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
    One short sleep past, we wake eternally
    And death shall be no more, Death, thou shalt die.”

    -John Donne, from his Holy Sonnet series, first published posthumously in 1633

    As you might remember, one major theme from Wit was the idea that nothing more than a comma, a momentary pause, a breath, separates us from life and life everlasting…our eternal weight of glory.

    I saw Sree in the break room at work the other day. He mentioned a poem you’ve written about Melanie. I’d love to read it one of these days. But if I could only have one wish for you today, it would not be to read your poem but to have you keep writing her story.

  3. Linda Barrett says:

    Love this. Great thoughts. I had forgotten Donne. I love you and the depth of your heart. When you see the light of day, give me a call and come over for a bowl of soup one night, or we can meet for “coffee” one day. I’d love to catch up, one on one.

  4. Laurie Flayhart says:

    This was SO beautifully written. It explained the tension of Grief and Joy so eloquently! Thank you Linda! I love your posts. They are echoes of my heart as well!

    Bless you!



    • artechoes says:

      Love you, sweet woman. I look forward to hearing your stories of Uganda. I know your heart is a mixture of longing, sorrow, joy, and pride (the right kind). Maybe we can connect soon.

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