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Witness of Faith

This month’s ‘Homewords Bound’ puts a focus on the ways grief gives way to joy.

REV. BENTON HEISLER
Director of Connectional Ministry, WMC

I recall a study book we used as a resource in one congregation I served in the early 1990’s. My children were toddlers. All four of their grandparents were living in their own homes and very self-sufficient. I really did not have much of a frame of reference as I tried to lead the study titled, “Becoming Your Parents’ Parent.”

Fast forward to this week and all the reference points have changed. My father died 27 years ago of a sudden heart attack. My mom died three years ago in the course of a day, after living 18 years in a range-of-care retirement community. Linda’s father died 12 years ago in her parent’s mobile home with the two of us by his side after a 3 year fight with cancer. Linda’s mom celebrated her 87th birthday this past weekend … in a hospital, surrounded by family. Monday we moved her back to the memory care facility where she is now receiving Hospice. Doctors are not sure if it will be two weeks, two months…maybe longer…?  Congestive heart failure and other complex factors have their own time table.

Her name is Faith. Her life has been a quiet witness that patterned her name. For the past 12 years, since her husband’s death, she has lived in our home. Just a month ago, the dementia and its complicating issues prompted our transfer of her to a care facility. Her room there allowed us to set all her same furniture and photos and lamps in the same place. “Her apartment,” as we explained it, looked just like her space in our home. There was just a new set of “friends & family” at the meals now.

Not surprising, all the family members are at different stages of grief, depending on the relationship and grief work each of us has done to date.

“Holy Week” has a new context for me this year. This family transition of one blessed soul beginning the final journey from this life to the next is indeed a “Holy Time.” Person’s heartfelt messages of “praying for you;”  “we’ve been through it ourselves;” “let me know how I can help;” have been sustaining manna for each difficult moment.

I am confident that our family journey is not unlike this road many of you have walked as well. What came to my mind as I began to craft this message to you was how there were some parallels to the transitions taking place in the Michigan Area of the UMC. There is anticipatory and real grief related to changes in process or foreseen for the near future. There are important “thank you and good-byes” to be said to meeting places, relationships, structures, programs, “how we have always done it” and what might have been or never was.

I am thankful that as our family gathered following the “meeting with the doctors” we willingly all prayed, as did one of the physicians who accepted our invitation to remain. Our family knows this is only the end of the “Journey” in this life. Because of all of whom Jesus was and what God did for us through His Son in the course of this “Holy Week” that culminates on Easter, we are people of great Hope! Focusing on this abundant, life giving, and eternal love, brings such great peace.

The UMC is only 3-5% of the population in any given context. But look at what the incredible impact is as God uses each of us as agents of healing, forgiveness, restoration and peace. I pray that has we continue to form the “new” Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church we will always keep in mind Who we serve in in this process and Whose children we are.  We are the sons and daughters of the Lord God
almighty, who was, and is and is to come.

Quoting the great sermon and book by Tony Compolo, “It May be Friday but Sunday is Coming!!!”  Death may be at our door, but Eternal Life is through the door on the other side.

I pray we each not only hold on to that truth by faith, but by our faith demonstrate to the world the life transforming power of the Risen Christ, bolding proclaiming, like the first visitors at the tomb, “He is not here!  He has risen! He has risen indeed!”  (Matthew 28: 5-6)

~Author’s Note: If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. (John 8:13 New Jerusalem Bible.)  Each article I write for this column is based in the guidance of a particular Scripture passage. I pray that these reflections, stories and information will assist you in your own witness and service as a Disciple of Jesus Christ.

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