“She’s gone.” That was the text message our son sent a week ago today. Jeaneen, his wife’s beautiful sister who had fought cancer for almost two years, quietly breathed her last. Her sisters, parents, husband and children now walk without her. They will all experience—in vastly differing ways—the “normal” reactions to grief. Shock and denial, almost constant, overwhelming thoughts of the one so loved, perhaps despair and depression. Yes, I know the Bible says we don’t “grieve like the rest of mankind” because our hope is in Christ, but “she’s gone” will pervade, even invade, their minds and hearts for long days ahead. In our family, it was months—years for some—before we could remember our loved one with laughter, before we could admit his foibles as well as his fortitude.
To live in the reality of Gone without succumbing to self pity or despair is so very hard. Jeaneen’s husband will get up each morning for work. Even with all the support from extended family, he must learn how to comb his daughter’s hair, be a perceptive dad to a sad son, cheer on his children’s teams. His tears will soak his pillow as he learns how to be a once-married man. Gone is real.
Jesus’ friend, Martha, caught it well. “If you had been here…” Jesus had not come “in time” and so Gone had come. Then Mary, the more contemplative sister, the one who sat at Jesus’ feet in adoration, repeated the thought, “If you had been here…” Jesus hadn’t come and Gone became reality.
When Gone is the path in which we walk, psychologists tell us to do the next thing. Spiritual advisors encourage us to trust, believe and perhaps—some day in the distant future—rejoice. It’s too soon to advise those living in the Gone to look at things from God’s perspective, to imagine deep within the soul Jeaneen whole and happy with Jesus. But soon—soon as seen by God—they will find that Gone has lost its power because Jesus is totally, realistically, lovingly, mysteriously filling the space.