A beloved member of our congregation passed away yesterday.  So many people are expressing their surprise because she was in church Sunday.  I just played dominoes with her myself last Thursday (we have a monthly gathering at church of folks who eat lunch together and play games).  She will be greatly missed by many.

It’s difficult when people we love die.  Sometimes it’s a sudden shock, like when a young person dies in a car accident.  Sometimes it comes as the end of a long, drawn-out illness.  I could go on, because there are many ways.  But in the end, we who are left grieve.  We are sad, even though as Christians we know that “we don’t mourn like those who have no hope” (Newsboys).  There is a sorrow that comes from knowing the other person is gone from this life, and while we know we have the hope of eternal life, it’s out of the sphere of our current reality.  It’s impossible to fully comprehend what heaven will be like, and we know that for the time being we will notice that person’s absence in our lives, in all the places we are used to seeing them.

Maybe it’s the holidays, when a family member isn’t sitting in his or her designated chair.  Or at church, when we pass that pew that they occupied each week.  Sometimes the absence is noticeable in little ways, like when you pick up the phone and then remember that no one will answer on the other end before you finish dialing.

I’ve had some losses in my life – family, friends, congregation members, acquaintances in the community.  It’s never easy.  The one thing that comforts me is knowing that through the tears, I have a Friend who is by my side, sharing in the grief I feel.  It helps me to know that Jesus felt this way too, and He knew He didn’t have to wait very long to see His friend!  Read the story of Lazarus and see for yourself.

Thank you, Lord, for Eleanor.  She was a blessing to many in this life, and we are so thankful to have known her.  Be with us now as we mourn her loss and look forward to the day we will see her again, when we will be face to face with You!  Amen.