It is the waiting room to eternity and time doesn’t always behave properly because it must yield to a higher authority.
One of the most difficult and strangest places to be emotionally is while you are waiting for a loved one to pass on. The 23rd Psalm calls this place the valley of the shadow of death. It is not an easy place to walk through alone. You’ll need a shepherd. Perhaps you have been there. It is when the doctors do not give you any hope. And the hope that God offers doesn’t always make sense. Nothing really makes sense. On one hand you would never wish for someone to die, but on the other hand there is a realization that death is imminent and you don’t want to see someone suffering. It is the waiting room to eternity and time doesn’t always behave properly because it must yield to a higher authority. Day to day schedules no longer take precedent and you begin to wonder if the clock is accurate because you seem to float in time, suspended in the memories with your loved one. One minute you are bawling your eyes out and the next minute you are crying from laughter. You are not sure how you are supposed to feel. And that is ok.
I think you truly enter into this valley when you know that your loved one is no longer aware of your presence. It hurts.
People pop in and out of the waiting room like characters from another universe. They make you feel better. They bring food and memories. They mourn with you.
A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. Ecclesiastes 7:1-4
As a younger man I found this a difficult passage of scripture to reconcile with my limited understanding and narrow perception of death. And also life. After a little more hands on experience with loss I now find great comfort in the words of The Preacher in Ecclesiastes.
It is good to mourn. Everyone mourns differently. I tend to write.
We stopped at Smith’s and got some of that orange peanut candy that tastes like rubber.
I was two years old when Brant Douglas Reynolds, my Mom’s dad, died of a heart attack on Thanksgiving Day in 1989. My memories of him are few and a little vague. I remember riding in the back of his 1968 Ford Ranger that rotted to the ground from neglect after his death. I remember him bringing me Oreo cookies. I remember going to the cow sale with him. We stopped at Smith’s and got some of that orange peanut candy that tastes like rubber. I remember going into his work shed and seeing all of his power tools. I remember his blue tractor. And I remember being at his viewing after he died. “Dan Dan is asleep.” I said to Mom as she held me on her hip so that I could peer into his casket.
Years later as a teenager, I changed the strings on his 1972 Martin D-18. Gram had bought it new for him from Fretted Instruments with the income tax return that year. You’d have thought that you bought him a brand new pickup truck. I could tell that he cared for the guitar because he had looped the strings through the hole in the tuning peg twice before winding it, a step that I always skip because it takes longer and isn’t really necessary, but it looks nice. That extra step said something about the thoroughness of his personality, as I took those old strings off it was almost like he was talking to me. I think he’d be happy to know that I play guitar, but he’d be happier to know that I preach the same Gospel that he and the Apostle Peter preached.
I heard that he had a 1959 Les Paul in the 1960’s. The Holy Grail of guitars. He had to trade it for a car. I’d like to at least see a picture of that guitar. Perhaps it wasn’t a 1959, and it’s better to just remember it that way. I use this story to convince my wife to let me have multiple guitars, I hope it pays off one day.
I don’t know how well he played guitar, or sang. I don’t remember. I vaguely remember him at church preaching and playing guitar. But you do a lot of sleeping at church when you’re two years old, so these memories are sort of dreamy. He was taken away early in my life and looking back I can see how his absence impacted me. I’m sure things would have been different if he were still alive today, I can’t say that they would be better. Or worse. But they’d be different.
Rev. Roger Lewis, a close friend to “Tinker” as my grandfather was known, was traveling for Thanksgiving when he heard news of my Tinker’s death. He didn’t have a suit with him and felt terrible about going to the viewing in casual clothes. Til this day, he keeps a suit of dress clothes in his vehicle whenever he is going out of town overnight, just in case of an emergency. He calls it his Tinker Suit. I hope that it doesn’t get much use.