It is hard when a parent dies.
One of the hardest things there is.
It makes death real, it changes the world, it assures us of our own mortality. It takes the only life we’ve ever known and it turns it upside down.
And it blesses us.
It forces us to learn and feel as we have never done before. It puts us in a crucible of adversity and refines us, burning weakness and doubt from us in the fire of sorrow and loss. It throws us into a raging torrent of emotion, and demands we sink or swim.
It is one of the worst days in mortality, intended to direct our minds toward eternity.
And, in that, it is the last act of service in this life by a loving parent.
From our birth, they teach us about life. With their death, they teach us about eternal life. They force us to come to grips with belief and loss, faith and pain. We say that people who die go to heaven, but with the death of a parent, we cannot merely say it, we must believe it. We must believe it enough to shape our lives and our feelings forever on it. We must grab hold of faith and build it into a foundation that gives comfort and assurance enough to take the next faltering steps of life and to go on until, in the wisdom of God, we are reunited with our lost loved ones in the life after this.
Those are pretty words before, they are the only way forward after.
They are the unifying truth of the eternities.
And they are true. Families are forever. Our own hearts and emotions testify of that. There is no heaven in separation, no peace in loss, no paradise in loneliness. Joy is in reunion, glory is in togetherness, heaven is in the home – reconstituted and forever linked by a God who calls us children and assures us that he is our Father.
The feelings of loss at death are strong, and they linger as long as we live. Love does not die with the body, and loss does not fade with time. And they shouldn’t. Grief is love denied, and it will be with us in some degree until, in eternal reunion, we are in the arms of our lost parent again.
The reality of a parent’s death brings us to reliance on that truth, it forces us to have faith in it. And leads us to know that the loving God who promises us peace in the eternities will also give us strength and comfort in this season of mortal grief.
Our parents die to teach us faith.
And to make us grow.
To force us, in the order of things, to take on new responsibilities and roles. To compel us to continue the growth and development we came here to get. They, like we, had a course to run and things to learn, and having completed their journey, they have made way for us to complete ours. To learn more of strength and leadership and compassion, love and wisdom and determination.
Parents are training wheels and a safety net for our journey through life, and at a certain point, on a day selected by God in his wisdom, we are called to fly alone.
And to look down the chain of family links, not up. To focus on not the generation before us, but the generations after us. To be fully parents and grandparents, to do for those we have brought into the world what was done for us by those who brought us into the world. To leave behind the part of our lives when we were children, and embrace in every particle of our being that part of our lives in which we are parents. To teach and love and guide, to nurture and provide and protect.
To pass to our young the unique spirit of family that was given to us when we were young.
And to love and teach until our dying day, when the cycle of life turns again to death, and our children will be called to learn what we are learning now.
It is hard when a parent dies.
And maybe harder when a spouse dies. So in your day of grief, if you have one parent left here with you, remember your duty to comfort and support, and find peace in giving peace, solace in providing solace, shared haven in the arms of family embrace.
Your parent has died, and it is now your turn to be strong.
But who God calls, he equips. And you can handle this, because he will help.
Today, and every day.
So be of good cheer and firm faith, and look forward to a better day, even if for a time you must do so through tears.
Because that is what your loving parent would want you to do.