By Duane Crim
As humans, each of us has some resistance to death and all that goes with it. We know it is happening to others and like to think it will not happen to us till we are ready for it; especially is this true when we are young and seemingly healthy. Having lost my wife of eight years over five years ago, I would like to share some thoughts on death. She was twenty-nine years old and the mother of three young sons. Her doctor had pronounced her healthy just four days prior to her death. She died of a cerebral hemorrhage in the left side of her brain. Death came sure and sudden. There was no warning.
What Would You Trade?
During the forty-two hours her heart continued to beat, even though there were no other indications of life, I found myself near shock and physical exhaustion. The doctors gave me no hope and, if she had lived, she would have been a vegetable. If I had had sixteen million dollars or have owned the world, I would have traded it for her life. I could not. Death was more powerful than life, power, knowledge, or money. So it, is with each one of us. If you are desirous of this world’s goods, let me say for a fact that when death comes you will be humbled before your Creator. There was no time for her to ask for a prayer; no time to discuss the future of our family; no time to say “I love you” or “I will miss you;” and no time to ask her forgiveness if I had mistreated her. As Christians we should continually do these things. The last of these can be pure agony, if you have wronged your wife or husband. As I waited for death, I thought of all of the above and especially the last one. Had I done anything to her for which I needed to say “I am sorry”? This kept going over and over in my mind.
Agony And Grief
When death separates you from your companion, the shock comes. Having gone through two showings of the body and a funeral in Indiana, then a showing of the body and an open grave funeral in East Texas, I can say the shock is tremendous. I am talking about those who truly love their mates. As I have already mentioned, this is where agony appears. This is the time you will recall your relationship, whether good or bad. This is the time you will wish you had not been so mean and had been a better companion. You will realize there is no way to correct any sin that was between you and, if you are trying to be a Christian, the agony will make your life miserable. On the other hand, if you have been kind, considerate, patient and have corrected each wrong that comes between you, at the time it occurred, these thoughts at death are not agonizing. You can thank your God that there is a hope for the one you loved so dearly here on earth. You can glow inwardly to think that the two of you worked together as one for the Master. If you know there was no selfish withholding of your physical love because of spite or to get even, or to punish your companion, you can hold your head high at death. If the love you have given is because of love and not “duty,” your grief will be /or the loss and not because of regret. Grief is natural. In your loss, you will lose a friend, a mother to your children, a companion, your intimate love in marriage, someone to talk to, your number one critic who cares for you, and many, many other rewards found in marriage. Most of all, you lose the helpmate who was desirous to help you in the path that leads to the eternal home we all seek (Prov. 4:9). In thinking about all of these losses, notice that our grief is for ourselves and not for the one who is gone. If they have been faithful in their life, then our grief is for our loss and our joy is for their eternal hope. Truly Solomon was right in saying, “. . . the day of death is better than the day of one’s birth” (Prov. 7:1). A joyous grief is most helpful if you lose a companion; the agony of death comes from neglect or mistreatment. Learn to love in an unselfish and complimentary way so that if death should come, your grief will not be in agony.
Blessing In Death
This might sound selfish, but there are blessings in death. Death frees one from his companion where there is no doubt of this freedom (Rom. 7:2). Should an accident or disease strike, the physical and financial strain can be tremendous. Death relieves this strain where, in some cases, life in a coma or as a vegetable prolongs it. I am not speaking of mercy killing; I am writing of sudden, uncontrolled or unexpected death. There are not many Christians who have the lawful opportunity to have more than one companion in this life. Death allows this. A lot of people will probably get upset about this statement, but it is a fact of life when death strikes. Do not demand vows from your companion that -be never marry again should you die. The greatest compliment you can give your: companion is to want him to live in marriage again. I learned that you do not fall out of love; you develop another love. I did this when my first son was born. When the second son came along, he also found a place in my heart; so did the third and now also, the fourth. Selfishness demands vows and selfishness shuns other loves. Let me say again, I am writing about death striking younger couples.
Length Of Grief
There are those who will say you grieved long enough; the same ones will say you are “looking” too soon. Pay no attention to either. Those who are closest to you, as couples, will soon leave you and the loneliness is terrible. Even though you are with many, without your companion you are still alone. You cannot be close friends because someone will decide you are after his wife (or husband, if you are a widow). We do not expect this from Christians, but it does happen. If you stay to yourself, others will say something is wrong. Do not hibernate in grief. Let your tears flow freely and hold your head high. Do not be ashamed to meet or correspond with others who are also lonely and possibly available for a lawful marriage.
I studied closely the death of Sarah, the length of grief paid to Jacob, David’s grief when he faced death and also when he lost his two sons, Job and his time of grief, and many others. I do not mention the passages or conclusions I came to. If you are interested, look these, and others, up. Study them closely. I found comfort and some answers to the length I would grieve for my loved one. I still have periods of grief. I will never forget the joyful grief because I could find no agony in my heart.
Choosing Another Companion
Should you decide that another helpmate is in order, I will share some thoughts on this subject. Death allows a Christian to re-marry. You can agree or disagree, but I believe Christians must marry Christians. I held my head high when I married a Christian. I held my head high when she died a Christian. In looking for a mate, I automatically turned toward someone living in light (not in darkness) as Christians should live. I knew I could never give my whole love to someone who was not washed pure by the blood of the Lamb. If you have never married, please consider these points also. 1. want to go to heaven and I do not need someone trying to drag me to Hell by not being a Christian. The Bible allows a divorce because of adultery. How many people, who are Christians, do you know who have this scriptural ground for divorce? My soul is too precious to take the chance of straining it by committing adultery, should I marry someone “claiming” fornication, because her companion is now married since their divorce, and this someone is now free to marry, after the divorce and not before. If you cannot get the preceding sentence to sound right, neither can I but these types of messes exist among Christians. I did not look for a companion among the divorced people. (I will be glad to take on all who disagree. Please give your name and address so I can respond.)
This left the field of single people and widows. I chose a Christian widow who had also lost her husband in an untimely death. The choice is available in either category to both men and women. Some people are matchmakers. Do not ignore their interest in you. Feel free to correspond by mail to friends who know of other friends. I made it through many lonely days by writing letters. The word gets around, if you were a good spouse and a good Christian. With prayers to your God and judgment on your part, you can find a lawful Christian companion.
Why death came to my wife instead of to some drunk in the gutter, I could not understand. Why were three young sons left without a mother? I did not doubt my God nor His power, but I did ask why. I did not find any comforting answers to these questions. The comfort came by knowing I had not lost as much as Job, and I knew I must not curse my Creator. This made me want to be stronger. The answer to the why is death is no respecter of persons. There are certain laws God set in motion that cannot be violated. If I jump in front of a train, I will probably die. If I cross the center-line of the highway and get crushed in a head on crash, I will probably die. If the arteries in my body break, I will die if the blood is not stopped. If my heart stops, I will die. If I am rich or poor, white or black, male or female, and these things happen to me, I will more than likely die. Christians are also subject to the laws of death. We are not to fear death unless we are unprepared for death. “Why” is of no importance. Preparation for death is. Death is no respecter of age when it comes. It is appointed unto man to die (Heb. 9:27) and, if we know this, we need not ask why. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). We seek after a crown that will be given to the faithful. This is the why that is important.
You may have noticed that I have not quoted a lot of scripture nor referred to thoughts the Bible gives on death. I am not in any way implying Scripture is not important during the death of a loved one. I found much meaning in many Scriptures that I had not realized. I awakened to realizing the vanity of this world’s possessions. I realized why Jesus wept when Lazarus died. I realized the agony David went through before his son died. I found comfort in knowing that if my wife is in the bosom of Abraham, I can go to her; she cannot come to me. I also realized that if she is not in the bosom of Abraham, I must not go to her in her torment. The rich man sent the message earlier, “do not come here” (Lk. 16:23-31). A lot of people draw the conclusion that they want to be with their loved ones, even if they are in the Hell of fire. Not me; eternity does not end. I want to live with my Saviour for He overcame death. All of these passages take on new meanings, or thoughts, at the death of a loved one.
I hope the reader understands that I do not know all the answers. I know what helped me keep my sanity during this period of grief. I have been personal in some cases in trying to describe my thoughts on death. The Bible contains many more answers than I can give, so please study it. My wife and I are now trying to raise four sons to meet their Creator. Our mistakes will be many but by the help of our God and as Christians, we can pull together. Our love for each other and our love for our children has once again established the home that God so ordained.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:28, p. 8-9
May 16, 1974