My family mourned the loss two relatives within the past eight days. The husband of my mother-in-law’s sister, Uncle J.W., lost his fight with cancer last Friday. My Aunt Grace, my mom’s middle sister, lost her battle with cancer on Sunday.

It’s been very interesting to watch the dynamics of the two families.

My husband’s relatives are very stoic and don’t easily demonstrate their emotions. They’re not cold. Just not overly passionate. We received an email, short and to the point, from a relative who lives a couple of hours away, telling us of Uncle J.W.’s passing. My husband replied to the email, extending his condolences and apologies that we would not be able to attend the funeral. It wasn’t a cold communication. Just brief, in keeping with their family dynamics.

My mom’s family on the other hand are completely opposite. They wear their emotions on their sleeves. You’re going to be grabbed in a big bear hug whenever one of them sees you, regardless of where you are. And if someone gets ticked at you, well, you can bet they will let you know.

My 85 year old mom is the eldest of ten siblings, five girls and five boys. Aunt Grace was the middle sister, and the first of the ten to die. As you can imagine, with that many siblings, it made for a very large wake. There were brothers and sisters, first, second and third generation cousins, and family and friends from all along the eastern seaboard states in attendance. Many I had not seen in many, many years. Some I had forgotten. I lost count of the folks coming and going, and how many times I got caught in one of those bear hugs.

Standing beside Aunt Grace’s casket, one of her daughters, Lillie, hugged me as if she was never letting go. We were close as children. I spent many summers at their home.  Unfortunately, we let the distance of several states hinder keeping in touch as life happened and we married and started families of our own. Looking around I didn’t see her eldest sister. So, I asked where she was. Again, Lillie hugged me tight, and with tears flowing whispered in my ear that tempers had flared while making their mom’s funeral arrangements. Her sister was not coming. She said that cut deeper than the loss of her mom, and asked if I would pray for her sister and her four other siblings. My heart broke for my cousins even more. I wept, not at the loss of my aunt, but with compassion for my cousin.

~Sigh~ Funerals and family dynamics.

I am reminded of a family in the Bible who were mourning the loss of a brother. In the book of John, chapter 11, Jesus learns of the death of a friend. He travels to Bethany to comfort the sisters of Lazarus. When he arrives he is met by Martha who complains of His absence and delay, and perhaps displays some resentment of his seeming unkindness. She is quoted in verse 21, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  In verse 32, her sister, Mary says the same, only she falls down at Christ’s feet, as one overwhelmed with great sorrow, speaking with many tears. Her comment was not made as an accusation, but a humble petition. Having witnessed the sorrow of the two sisters and those who had come along with them, we read in verse 33 that Jesus was “deeply moved in the spirit and troubled“, and in verse 35 “Jesus wept.”

~Sigh~ Funerals and family dynamics.  It’s so easy to let sorrow get the best of us. Grieving is hard. It seems the pain is endless.

It becomes us, according to this example of Christ, to show our love to our friends, both living and dying. We must sorrow for our brethren that sleep in Jesus as those that are full of love, though not void of hope; as the devout men that buried Stephen, Acts. 8:2. Though our tears profit not the dead, they embalm their memory. These tears were indications of his particular love to Lazarus, but he has given proofs no less evident of his love to all the saints, in that he died for them. When he only dropped a tear over Lazarus, they said, See how he loved him! Much more reason have we to say so, for whom he hath laid down his life: See how he loved us! Greater love has no man than this. – Matthew Henry 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, your compassion is greater than we can comprehend. Thank you.

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2 thoughts on “Funerals and Family Dynamics

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