In my years of visiting hospice patients and their families as a spiritual care coordinator for a senior health care system, I’ve had the privilege of being with family members at their loved one's bedside, visiting with them at funeral homes, conducting memorial and funeral services, and following up with them to address their bereavement concerns.
Due to the demographic of the patients I visit, I usually enter this sacred time and space of people who have walked this earth for 70 years or more, sometimes over 100 years. And due to the nature of the health system, founded by a religious order, the patients and their families usually have a deep faith.
The comment I often hear made by the grieving family members is that the passing of their loved one is a "mixed blessing,” especially after months or years of suffering. I usually respond, "It’s a time for tears of sorrow and tears of joy." Without exception, they agree.
Losing a loved one is undoubtedly a time to shed tears of sorrow. But why a time for tears of joy?
Can losing a loved one be a time for sorrow and joy?
When a younger person or someone in their prime dies, when death thrusts itself unexpectedly onto a family, or when violence takes a loved one, tears of joy, while still possible at some point depending on the depth of a family’s faith, are far and few in between.
Understandable Mixed Emotions
When an aged senior is living the last months, weeks, or days of his or her life, they have often lived a full life punctuated by frequent hospitalizations, physical and mental decline, and painful suffering.
Family and friends are understandably torn between praying for recovery and praying for the Lord to take their loved one and friend home. In these instances, tears of joy more readily mix with those of sorrow.
Paraphrasing comments I’ve heard from family members over the years, they would say: “We will miss her, but she lived a long life. We are happy she is no longer suffering, and we know she is with the Lord. She is finally at peace."
They often add their loved one will see family members and friends who have gone before them when they go to heaven. For these families, tears of sorrow were mixed with tears of joy.
Listen to God’s Words
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:4)
Also read: Ecclesiastes 3:1-14, John 3:16, Matthew 5:4
In the Words of Others
“Death is for many of us the gate of Hell; but we are inside on the way out, not outside on the way in.” George Bernard Shaw
“I look at life as a gift of God. Now that He wants it back I have no right to complain.” Joyce Carey
“Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.” Dag Hammarskjold
Think About It
If you lost loved ones who were aged, seriously ill, and suffering, describe your feelings during their final days. Did you shed tears of sorrow and tears of joy?
How did your faith or lack of faith influence any of these experiences?
Read Psalm 23 and reflect on how it applied to your situation. Consider how it applies to your Christian walk.