November 02

Our Savior, Christ Jesus . . . has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. —II Timothy 1:10 (NIV)

This past year was bittersweet because, while it was the year Joy and I celebrated twenty-five years of marriage, it was also the year her father, James D. Fickett, died after a long illness.

Death is a subject we like to avoid in our culture. Christians even invent euphemisms for it, like "passing away" and "going to be with the Lord." Through Joy and her family, I learned a lot about dealing with the meaning and the heartbreak of the death of a loved one. Here are three of the things I learned:

• Time with a dying loved one is invaluable. Joy's family was given the grace of a gentle process that took several weeks. She was able to travel from Virginia to California three times and be there for her dad's final moments. She had time for memories, healing old hurts and bonding more deeply with siblings than the years of living far from home had allowed.

• Funerals and memorials are for the living. My brother-in-law was asked to speak at his father's funeral. He came to me and said he didn't think he could do it and asked if, since I was trained as a minister, I would speak. While I was willing to help, I encouraged him to speak about his dad also. He did, and was blessed beyond measure; his thoughtful words touched every listener's heart.

• Death is a reminder to cherish life. Ask yourself, "If I knew I was going to die next Tuesday, whom would I call or write or visit?" Then get out your calendar and schedule those calls, letters and trips. You will never be sorry.

Lord, for the gift of life I am deeply grateful; for the promise of new life beyond death I am joyfully hopeful; and in the cherished memories of those who have gone before I am richly blessed.

—Eric Fellman