“I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-4).
On a blustery January day my 5-year-old son and I attended a funeral viewing for an older gentleman. Arriving at the church, we were met by a line of family and friends extending beyond the sanctuary. As we made our way to the end of the line, I leaned down to my son and said, “All these people came to offer a kind word, a hug and, most importantly, their presence for the family of the man who died.”
While we waited, I remembered my encounters with the deceased, his care for and love of his family, his passion for baseball, and the way he first welcomed me to the community when I was a new pastor there. As we moved slowly forward and into the sanctuary, my son asked how long it would take, and I shared that all these people were here to give thanks to God for Bill’s life and to remind his family that they’re not alone in their grief and sadness. I told him that some people would share a memory and others would simply say, “I’m sorry,” but that all the people in line were there to remember and give thanks.
This visitation happened weeks ago, but honoring the life of one of God’s beloved reminds me how we can approach the season of Lent. Lent invites us to be present as we are—loved and claimed as children of God. Lent says to each of us, you’re not alone. Lent helps us see that in every death and loss new life is present. We trust that as we walk through the valley and the temptations, Jesus walks with us toward the cross.
Lent can be a time to ask our kids what questions they have about death. As a family, we can lean into the mysteries of life and death, trusting that Jesus walks with us.
As a family, take time this season to explore how you can show up for others and offer a kind word and the power of presence. Be open about life and death. Reassure your children of God’s love and your love for them. Visit a family in the midst of grief. Send a note to residents of a nursing home. Talk about your feelings and fears. Light a candle. Trust God to meet you with the reassurance of God’s abiding presence.
- Read Joanna Rowland’s The Memory Box: A Book About Grief (Beaming Books, 2017), which describes what it’s like to remember and grieve a loved one who has died.
- Lent is a time to look toward hope and new life. Take a walk and see where you can find signs of growth (buds sprouting, green grass, more sunlight).
Is there anyone in your community grieving a loss? Reach out to them with a kind note, letting them know you remember their loved one. Share with them a memory of the person. Make a meal for them or invite them to your home.
This month remember those who have died in your family, church or community. Say their names out loud and give thanks to God for their lives. Pray throughout Lent for grieving families to know God’s peace.