By: Danielle Calhoun
“Get out of here. This ain’t no place for you.”
My grandpa weakly swatted at me and mumbled this barely audible demand, as his heavy eyes laid sternly on my tear stained face.
“There is no place I’d rather be, Grandpa! I’m not going anywhere.”
Two days later, he went to be with the Lord. For the past several years, my grandpa has been battling his health. We knew it was coming, and we tried to help, but we still weren’t prepared for how it would painfully play out so quickly.
This experience further reinforced to me how we take our tiny lives for granted and how GRIEF’S unavoidable impact can creep up on us.
Grief sucks. There is no way around it. Even the most peaceful of earthly exits comes with the sobering reality that your loved one will no longer be in your life this side of forever. This is why eternity is such a great strategy for conversion, am I right? We put our hope in looking ahead vs. looking eye to eye with the reality that is this short life here and now. This life is where our eternity is meant to begin, be lived out and experienced now, and then continued after death.
I’ve seen much suffering and participated in many ‘deathbed’ conversations as a child and as an adult. It is a vulnerable, visceral, raw, fragile, and painful space guaranteed to touch every single person’s life at one point or another, regardless of wealth, status, or beliefs. Death levels the playing field for everyone in all of history. Our beginning and ending are universally understood. We are born. We die. It’s the middle parts that get complicated and vary drastically. Thankfully, our hope is in what’s ahead.
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job 1:21 ESV
I know it is a natural response to want to avoid these undoing environments of death and protect our hearts from hurting. We each grieve in our own individual ways. In my personal experience, death brings with it a palpable perspective, an exponential awareness of grace, sacrifice, connection, and an intimate time for introspection.
With that said, this was the first time since having children where I’ve played such a contributing role in the process of caring for a loved one about to pass away. It made me realize I still have so much to learn about Jesus' message of enduring love, grace, healing, comfort, and goodness. He, time and time again, calls us out to get our hearts shattered and our hands dirty in service to others. We are designed to help carry the burden for one another. Sometimes, it is harder to uphold that call to serve, but when crisis hits, we get to choose how to serve in the most trying of times. Jesus tells us to SHOW UP in the places too ugly, too repelling, too painful, too complicated, and too messy for most and LOVE and comfort the people in front of us with every ounce we have to give. If I’m honest, some people are more difficult to love than others, but Jesus doesn’t tell us to love the healthy and well, now does He?
Jesus heard about it and spoke up, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.”
Luke 5:31-32 MSG
Sitting on the bedside next to my grandfather, I thought about how much greater the lesson of enduring love feels knowing there is no reward or inheritance awaiting me once he is gone. I just want to LOVE and help him because he is worthy of love just as he is. My inheritance is what his complicated, but well lived, life and love have taught me about myself and how I engage with the world around me. My inheritance is the deep understanding that GREAT LOVE comes with GREAT SUFFERING, GRACE and LOSS. My inheritance is the peace and joy I feel in my heart knowing he is finally in heaven, reunited with his loved ones, and free from the limiting health restrictions that kept him a prisoner to his body.
I can’t imagine how different loss must feel when there is earthly treasure on the other end of someone’s life. I believe that is why the Bible says your treasure is in heaven – so you can love fully and freely without expectation of anything in return. It is the greatest lesson being raised poor could never buy.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV
So, when I am faced with this understanding of loving others, even the difficult, misunderstood, hurting, unlovable people, without reciprocation, I pray, ‘How am I to best show love to the person in front of me?’ It’s still crazy hard, y’all. I’m not even going to lie about it. My carnal self doesn’t want to love everyone placed in front of me, and that’s just the facts. The relational consequences of brokenness, addiction, spite, generational trauma, evil, unforgiveness, and unresolved conflict repel us away from the very people God called us to love and seek after the hardest.
If sin is simply defined as “the absence of love,” then my heart’s mission for the rest of my numbered days is to try my hardest to sin (be absent of love) no more. This means to LOVE at every turn possible and show up with FULLY PRESENT, UNGUARDED, KINGDOM MINDED COMPASSION as often as I can. This means I am placing my hope and peace in knowing that wherever I am, I am to be FULLY THERE with whoever I’ve been graciously connected to in that shared moment with zero expectation of anything in return.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 ESV
I am reminded and challenged to lean into the ‘this ain’t no place for you’ moments and plant myself confidently in the middle of the mess, knowing this is EXACTLY WHERE GOD has planted me, and there is no place I’d rather be!
I will celebrate the eternity ahead by living fully and freely in love here and now.
See you soon, Grandpa.