PASTOR'S PEN: The empty house

The week had been a difficult one. I spent several nights at the hospital watching the one I had loved for so long slowly fade away. We had spent many years; falling in love and then got married. That was an eternity ago, yet its memory still feels as fresh as the day it happened.

Time passes too quickly. We raised a family together with plenty of joys and sorrows, peaceful evenings and stressful circumstances. We went through a lot of hard times, but we went through them together. Now we were making her final journey, together. During this week, I had seen many come and go in the room. It was good to watch her occasional smile or even recall a family member’s name when they began to speak. Those times, however, were few and far between. Most of the day she would lay there hooked up to machines as she slept. That was so unlike her. She had been active. She used to rise early and would be on the move until she went back to bed at night. I don’t know how she did it then, but now ... now those days were gone. Now she was at rest with her Savior, her spirit gone from this Earth.

It was such a whirlwind. All in a few days, family members and friends from all over occupied the house. They came to offer condolences, bring flowers and supply food. There were numerous visits to the funeral home, meetings with the pastor and then there was the funeral itself. The funeral where she was honored with words so kind they would have embarrassed her. She never would have allowed it. It makes me smile to think of her even as a tear runs down my face.

But now the scurrying around and the busyness and the influx of visitors has ended. I’m home alone in this empty house. With nothing to distract my thoughts, I can’t help but think of her. I enter the kitchen and I see her standing by the sink. I sit in my chair and she is under her afghan reading a book. I lie in my bed and the memories overwhelm me like a flood, as do the tears. All seems lost. All seems empty. Nothing will ever be the same. My dearest is no longer with me.

I’ve personally never experienced the loss of a spouse, but some of you have. Some have experienced also the loss of a child, a sibling or a dear friend. Each a devastating experience cutting deep into your soul. With such detrimental hurt and loss we tend to respond, understandably so, with strong feelings of sorrow, depression or anger. It is difficult to deal with the loss of one with whom we have experienced so much and held so close.

Jesus Himself experienced loss and sorrow. One of the shortest verses in the Bible was written after Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus had died. John 11:35 says, "Jesus wept." Jesus, the One who could have healed Lazarus. Jesus, the One who knew He would raise Lazarus back up. This same Jesus wept when His friend died. He knew the pain and loss of death as He cried for His friend. But that loss Jesus experienced gives Him the ability to understand your loss, even more than He already did, and provide comfort to you. One of my favorite verses is 1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you." When I experience the death of a loved one, I can bring my sorrow, feelings of loss, depression and anger to God knowing that He won’t push me away. He understands and cares for me. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 repeats this by saying, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction ..."

God is there to comfort you and me.

The loss of someone close will never fully go away. That loved one will always be a part of you. They helped make you who you are today and their legacy will go on in you. It will still be difficult and it will take time, but know this — Jesus Christ has been there and He understands. He is always nearby with a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and arms to hold you tight. You are most certainly not alone. Praying for all those who have lost loved ones.