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Make Sure Chris Is Not Alone This Holiday Season

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THE FINALITY OF DEATH


When my husband Chris passed away last year our family was in Colorado Springs for a national homeschool leadership conference. Surrounded by many local friends as well as extended family and hundreds of friends who had come to the national conference, we were so grateful for the amazing support network the Lord gave us the last few weeks of Chris’s life. Their love, and care and prayers, along with the prayers of thousands around the country are a big part of what God used to bring comfort to Chris and us his last days with our family.


Chris knew that he was going to receive a great reward, to be with his Savior, Jesus Christ for eternity. He knew that soon he would have no more pain, no more MS and no more sin. His longing and the assurance that he would finally be with the Lover of his soul enabled him to sing songs of great joy just a week before his death. With Chris, the children and I, plus dear friends gathered around, it felt a little like we were transported to heavenly realms as together we sang songs like, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “Holy, Holy, Holy” to our Father.


DEATH IS INESCAPABLE


Even still, Chris’s imminent departure from those he loved most, me and the children, brought such a weight of sadness to him and to us. Like a dark, stormy rain cloud, it came and hovered over us, refusing to depart. This is because no matter how much we know that the glories of heaven await us, death is still death. There is no escaping the pain of the most significant and the most final expression of living in a fallen world, death itself. It goes against all God created us to be, yet because of sin it is inevitably the final chapter of our life on earth.


Death is not a good thing, no matter how you look at it. God can and certainly does use death to bring about good things, but death itself is ugly. It is the most unnatural event experienced by us, eternal beings that we are. Not one of us can escape death, and very, very few of us get to avoid the ache of losing someone we love.


A FINAL RESTING PLACE


While we were in Colorado knowing we had very few days left with Chris, my dear friend Beth Raley was back at home researching cemeteries. We decided to choose one very near HSLDA. The Union Cemetery dates back to 1855 functioning as a public burial place. Because of its proximity to the time of the Civil War, both a Confederate monument and a Union chapel are located on these grounds.


Beth found a beautiful spot near some family burial sites in the cemetery, including George Carter of Oatlands Plantation just south of Leesburg. I liked the history and location of the cemetery, and knew that if we ever moved, it would be closer to HSLDA and our church, so Union Cemetery seemed the perfect place to bury Chris.


I’ve been by the site several times in the last year, and my daughter Bethany, who lives much closer to the cemetery than me has gone a few times and has lovingly put flowers or potted plants on Chris’s burial site. Yet, for over a year there has been no headstone.


SEARCHING FOR A MONUMENT


It took me several months earlier this year to find a company that could make a monument I thought Chris most would appreciate. I knew his lifelong love for sharing the glories of Jesus Christ meant that Chris would never want a monument that would draw attention to him in any way.


His passion for the gospel was so great that even after his death I knew Chris would still want to proclaim the greatness of His Savior, so I set out to find a monument that would declare Jesus in a prominent way. Seeing a few high crosses erected at Union Cemetery, I felt this was the most natural type of monument to get for Chris’s burial plot, and so after much searching I found High Cross Monuments in Texas. They specialize in designing and creating beautifully crafted and inscribed tall Celtic crosses. I wanted a more simple affordable design, but I also wanted it to be seen by people visiting the cemetery, like the beacon of a lighthouse on a dark night.  


I chose a six-foot-high Celtic cross with an endless rope design on it, symbolizing the eternal love of Christ for those He died on the cross. My desire is that some would stop by and read the inscription the Lord gave me:


Come, ye weary and laden with sin,


Believe in Christ, find life in Him!


 


I know Chris himself would love to see folks stop by and sit on the bench, perhaps rest a bit, maybe even think about the words and their own life. I plan to place a laminate copy of his testimony at the gravesite for any and all who might be interested in reading it that perhaps some might find comfort, hope, and especially eternal life in our beloved Savior.


DEATH IS SO VERY FINAL


Grieving the loss of a spouse, a best friend, a child, a parent is a bizarre and unpredictable process. It’s been over a year now and I find that just when I think I’m doing pretty well I’m all teary-eyed over some aspect of Chris’s absence. Death is not good, no matter how much time has passed. I love to think of Chris rejoicing in heaven, but feeling his loss is just as real today in some ways as it was a year ago.


Just two days ago, I got a call from the local monument company I hired to set Chris’s headstone after it was finished being made and shipped to the cemetery. They just wanted to let me know that the cross had been set in place. As I thanked them and hung up the phone, I started bawling. Somehow knowing there is a headstone in place at Chris’s burial site makes his death seem so utterly, absolutely final. Why did it seem in some strange and very small way that he wasn’t really gone?


THE END OF DEATH


“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality; then will come about the saying that is written, DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.” I Corinthians 15:54


Chris’s monument, a picture of certain death drives home the reality that death is both inescapable and final. In this life, I will never see his big smile, feel his once-strong hands, or hear his loud, heartfelt praises to the Lord. For these and so many other losses, I do and will continue to grieve. And so will all you who have lost one you love very much.


There is a finality of death, however, that should cause us to burst out in joyful song. Christ’s sinless death and resurrection on our behalf brought about the end of death. I love the line in Matt Maher’s Christ is Risen which says, “Christ has risen from the dead, trampling over death by death.”


Hope in Christ reassures us of the finality of death: “Death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55) In other words, for those who have died to sin and have risen with Christ, earthly death does NOT have the final say. For His followers, death in this life gives way to glorious and eternal life in the next.


Apart from the redemptive work of Christ for my sin death makes no absolute sense. Because of it, I no longer need to fear it. I don’t have to spend my life trying to avoid it. God has all my days numbered, and I know for certain that I will be here to the very last day God wants me here. I also know just as certainly that I will see not only Chris again, but countless others who in this life were precious to me and who love the same Redeemer I love.


THE PERPETUITY OF DEATH


Sadly, for those who are not in Christ, the finality of death gives way to eternal separation and pain and suffering. There is nothing to look forward to in this kind of death. That one’s earthly death leads to an eternal death without hope or joy, devoid of life and the Giver of life Himself.


I have attended the funerals of those who have died in this life who I’m fairly certain were convinced they had no need for God, no need for the shed blood of His Son, Jesus, to cover their sin. The grief experienced for these people is of the acutest kind. All hope is gone forever; there is no second chance. O, may God grant mercy that many, many may hear the gospel and believe!


 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” ~John 5:24


MY FAVORITE CHRISTMAS CAROL


This Christmas is our first one at home without Chris, and I am feeling my inadequacies as a single parent intensely!  I have had such a discouraging last few weeks and it has taken a great deal of courage (which I don’t think I have right now) to keep on keeping on. I am leaning heavily on the Lord, and I know HIs grace is there for me each day, but it doesn't mean I don't feel completely incapable of getting through a particular situation or day. I have been listening to Christmas carols all day and singing the gospel OUTLOUD!


I think my favorite Christmas carol is “Good Christian Men, Rejoice.”  In researching this carol for my homeschool choir’s Christmas program this past Wednesday, I discovered that the tune first appeared in a German manuscript as early as 1400, with words possibly dating back as far as 1540. Originally titled, “In Dulci Jubilo” (“to the house of God we’ll go”), this carol has been celebrated as one of the best loved carols of all times. Here are the words in case you’ve never really pondered them. I’m singing this song a lot this season myself; what a celebration of life in Christ they are!


GOOD CHRISTIAN MEN, REJOICE!


Good Christian men rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Give ye heed to what we say
News! News!
Jesus Christ is born today!
Ox and ass before Him bow
And He is in the manger now
Christ is born today!
Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
Now ye hear of endless bliss
Joy! Joy!
Jesus Christ was born for this
He hath ope'd the heav'nly door
And man is blessed evermore
Christ was born for this
Christ was born for this

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Peace! Peace!
Jesus Christ was born to save
Calls you one and calls you all
To gain His everlasting hall
Christ was born to save
Christ was born to save


Rejoicing with great joy, and grateful for your prayers,


Tracy