There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven –
A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what was planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
Under the cemetery’s customary blue canopy of the burial site, the family and friends that had gathered jockeyed for a limited number of positions in the shade. There were whispers of uncertainty about how to respectfully engage in a celebration of life during an occasion that evokes tears and sorrow. Whatever glimpses of joy there were in their smiles and laughter faded away as our celebration began.
While I paused before opening in prayer, a child’s voice pierced the silence as she – using her outside voice – began speaking to her parents about the grave marker she noticed at her feet and asked, “What do the numbers mean?” Her parents seemed concerned that engaging their inquisitive child’s question would be distracting. However, I saw it as God creating an opportunity to lighten the burden of sadness and uncertainty. I started a conversation with the girl about the “numbers” – the date someone entered life on earth with us and the date they entered life in heaven with Jesus.
Grieving the loss of a loved one is natural and healthy. However, we can’t become so consumed by our grief that we lose sight of the lives God wants us to live and the love He wants us to spread. While a celebration of life doesn’t immediately heal the pain associated with our loss, it invites us to engage in behaviors that will move us through our grief and keep us from being held hostage by it.
A celebration of life is “A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.”
A celebration of life helps us to see the “numbers” differently.
In celebration, the “numbers” printed on programs and etched into grave markers become positive signs of the beginning of life on earth and the beginning of life in heaven.
In celebration, the space between the “numbers” helps us to recall happy memories and encourages us to share joyful stories.
In celebration, we’re able to see beyond the “numbers” and envision the day when we will be reunited with our loved ones in heaven.
In celebration, the “numbers” become a window of time of God’s creative and redemptive work in the lives of our loved ones. In celebration, our imaginations open to our own “numbers” and we reflect, as followers of Jesus Christ, on God’s creative and redemptive work in our own lives.
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