When We Grieve a Loved One in Heaven
- 2017 May 06
I stooped to give my 7-year-old a goodnight hug and pray with him. He’d made a pallet on the carpet in my bedroom, something he often did after Dan died.
By day, he played like all the other little boys in neighborhood. You’d never know he was carrying a heavy blanket of grief.
It was at night, tired and finally quiet after the day’s activity, that I’d often hear him crying or see the silent tears as we talked.
On this night, I listened as Matt prayed. He thanked God for the good day and prayed for kids all over the world that needed help. And then he closed with this:
Tell my dad I said hello.
A thousand knives went through my heart.
Inwardly, I wrestled over the brutal honesty of his words even as I steadily bent to kiss his forehead. Tears stung my eyes at the cruel unfairness that a little boy would even have to pray those words and I could see Matt’s eyes were filled with tears too.
I had cried more tears over the last few weeks than I ever imagined a person could cry. Our days were filled with constant reminders of missing Dan. I’d instinctively reach for my cell phone to tell him some news -- and then remember. I’d hear the back door open and my heart would beat a little faster like it always had when he came home from work -- and then I’d remember.
Every single routine in our family had an empty hollowness.
Dinner held plenty of conversation – even laughter -- but always overshadowed by Dan’s seat at the table so obviously empty.
His briefcase sat just where he’d left it next to his chair in the living room and boxes where we’d packed up his office were sprawled on the ping-pong table in the garage.
There would be no more rides in his truck to and from practice, no more bedtime reads for the littles as I did the dishes, so many no more's.
Tell my dad I said hello.
Those words held pain but they also held connection.
Dan on that side of heaven, us on this side. Him in the presence of God, us still walking it out in faith. Him face to face with God, us still veiled from full glory.
Heaven had always seemed far off in time and space. It was a sure thing but a someday thing, so distant from the busy days of our life raising kids and paying bills.
And then it wasn’t.
Death had brought pain but it also brought connection. I wish I could say I felt that connection to heaven before but Dan’s death made it immediate and palpable. Like we had a deposit, waiting for us just after we met Jesus.
Because when you love someone in heaven, you carry part of heaven in your heart.
It was in church that I could most easily picture Dan in heaven. Caught up with the words and music of worship, I imagined him just the other side of eternity.
Us in our pew, him in the true tabernacle. All eyes on Christ. All of us worshiping. All of us part of one body.
The body of Christ is more than my congregation. It’s more than the believers in the next city over and next continent over. The body of Christ includes believers right now in the presence of God.
As we worship God here, we’re joining the chorus of believers worshiping in heaven.
As we serve God here, we’re joining the band of believers serving in heaven.
As we praise God here, we’re joining the multitude of believers praising in heaven.
The seen and the unseen. The groaning and the freed. Those whose life is Christ and those whose death is gain.
Yes, Lord Jesus. Tell him we said hello.
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