I realize it’s been two weeks since I last posted anything here. It’s not because I didn’t want to. It’s because I didn’t know what to say.
Three weeks ago today, my wife’s sister, Brenda, went missing. Two weeks ago today they found her body. She passed away peacefully, free from her depression and anxiety, but leaving a community confused and full of grief.
The activities since that day have been a whirlwind. I scarely know what day it is anymore, but through this time we are certain of one thing — God has been with us all the way.
Without the prayers of all our friends and family, I know we couldn’t have made it through the past 21 days. But God is an amazing god. We could (and still can) feel him lifting us up, sustaining us, strengthening us and holding us ever so close.
On this past Saturday, the family gathered at the funeral home to greet friends who wanted to express their condolences. We knew it would be busy, but I don’t think any of us anticipated the huge number of people that came out. Friends from her church, from our church, from the previous churches that they had served at, from churches that her parents had served at, people we hadn’t seen in year, and close friends. In total, we think nearly 400 people came to the funeral home that day. We helped each other work out our grief and sorrow as we told stories, remembered and cried.
On Sunday afternoon we were totally floored by the 1000 people that came to the funeral. As we looked out of the sea of people seated there, and standing at the back and in the overflow area, it was clear that Brenda’s life, and that of her husband and parents, had touched so many people through the years. Brenda was not a celebrity. She was not one to find herself in the foreground. She would never have wanted all this attention, but there these people were — coming to pay tribute to Brenda in what little way they could.
Was there crying at the funeral? You bet! But there was an overwhelming sense of God’s presence as well that brought a spirit of joy to everyone there. Brenda touched so many people, but it wasn’t with her strength that she accomplished that. It was with the strength and gifts that she received from and through her faith in Jesus Christ.
In the end, the 140 minute service was not only a tribute to Brenda, but more importantly an invitation to all those present to reach out and experience the same joy that gives us all hope and strength.
As David said many times, she lost the battle with mental illness, but she did not lose the war. That battle was won 2000 years ago on the cross at Calvary, and because of that we know that she truly is in a better place and that we will see Brenda again some day.
Brenda is resting in the arms of her Lord and Saviour. She is free from all these worldly anxieties and her joy is our joy. It’s up to you to make it your joy too.