Death is an event that you know will inevitably happen, but you’ll never be prepared for it. Three weeks ago, my dad died unexpectedly. My father had physical and mental health issues, but the phone call I received from my sister was not one I was ready for.
Since then, we’ve organised a funeral, dealt with the mess of deciding what happens with an estate and returned back to our “normal” lives. But in the midst of all this, I felt guilty and had to keep reminding myself that it was okay to be sad.
As Christians, we are constantly reminded that in Christ we have a hope in this irrevocable relationship. In the closed-off Christian bubble, where lives seemingly go unmarked or untouched by suffering or pain, this notion becomes twisted into a belief that understanding this is to feel no negative emotion towards painful events. Because Jesus is your comfort when things might seem tough, so keep on with the happy fun feels, right?
The most keen I felt this, was as I sat in church listening to everyone sing the second verse of “This Life I Live”:
I died to sin upon the cross
I’m bound to Jesus in his death
The old is gone, and now I must
Rely on him for every breath
With every footstep that I tread
What mysteries he has in store
I cannot know what lies ahead
But know that he has gone before.
I was singing a song about my life being reliant on Jesus, and knowing that he had died for me — but I was left feeling dejected. I sat there cursing myself for wanting to cry in the middle of such a great song. My father wasn’t a Christian, which meant that there is no hope for him. So as I fall back into the comfort of my relationship with God, I am reminded that he has died with no consolation of a heavenly “reunion.” There is a sadness in joy.
This deep-seated urge that I shouldn’t be sad, was only increased by some of the responses from those around me. Things that ranged from ignoring the elephant in the room, choosing to not ask a question that may elicit an emotional response or just saying nothing at all.
My relationship with my father was also a complicated one; one that I hoped would one day reach a semblance of normalcy. The silence only served the feeling that I shouldn’t be dwelling on death and the opportunity for time to rebuild our relationship. If everyone else keeps blinkered on their life, then I should just be keeping on.
But as I sat in my room last week, being annoyed at myself for not feeling up to going out for my friend’s birthday and having freaked out because my client’s dog died, I reminded myself that it was okay to be sad. Keeping on as a Christian isn’t just about managing to do life with minimal tears when things are rubbish.
In Ecclesiastes, it says that there is a time for everything including weeping and mourning (Ecclesiastes 3). Jesus mourned when his friend died (John 11), and wept as he was faced with death. So I guess if it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.