When sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, so did death. In our lives today, we accept that death is a “natural” part of life and we will not only face our own demise one day but also the passing of our loved ones.
Three weeks ago today a very dear friend of ours, the man who married us before God and our families, passed away very suddenly. Frank was a full time missionary to Uganda and South Sudan and lived here in Alaska for 6 months out of the year. He had a kind voice and a gentle touch with everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. The work he was doing in Africa was truly the work of God; he taught at and helped start the South Sudan Theological Seminary where young men are molded into Godly examples, which has enabled countless people in villages and towns to come to know Jesus. In 2012 he raised the money and obtained necessary paperwork to purchase a four-wheel-drive truck in South Sudan for traveling into villages that have no roads. In late 2011/early 2012 he assisted in opening a medical clinic in memory of his late wife Adelaide – a wonderful woman with just as much love and passion for the Lord as Frank!
When I first started dating my husband, Andy, Frank was staying at my in-laws home. He was so incredibly welcoming and accepting right away, it was as if I had known him my whole life. Since he had been there to see the beginning (and even took part in teasing Andy about this “girl” he hadn’t brought home yet!) it only made sense that he be the one to marry us when the day came. And we are so incredibly blessed to have those memories.
Although this isn’t the first time that one of us has had someone we know pass away, it was the first time that we had to learn to grieve together. Learning to grieve together is not something I had ever thought about prior to marriage. The morning that we woke up to the news Andy was about to leave for work and I was just getting up to get ready. Of course I cried and he held me tight for a few minutes before leaving. We talked a little that evening about Frank but it wasn’t until a few days to a week later that I asked him if he had been thinking about him and the family. It was in these moments that I started learning about how we grieve. Andy doesn’t feel the need to talk about it and is content thinking and praying on his own. For me, on the other hand, talking about it together a little bit and reliving all those good memories is an important part of my grieving process.
We both understood each others needs, and during this short grieving process we took good care of each other and did whatever the other needed to feel okay. A suggestion I can offer for you is to ask your spouse if they’ve ever experienced a loss in their life. A family member maybe? A friend? And especially ask them how they dealt with it. What is their grieving style? It may sound like a morbid conversation, but one day as a married pair you will experience a loss together. And as a married pair you will grieve together. Understanding what your mate needs from you (or doesn’t need from you) will help you both grieve in a healthy way.
I think I said it best on the morning of Frank’s passing: “The world has lost a great and amazing man today. Our hearts are broken with his family and dear friends. But we rest in the promise that he is home with the Lord and his wife. To his entire family, we love you all and we’re praying for you in this time of great loss.” That truly is the greatest comfort. I will still definitely miss his occasional “Gardner’s Goings” emails, the surprise phone calls, and the few dinner dates we were lucky enough to share. To the family, we’re always thinking about you all, we love you, and we hope you’ve found peace and comfort in this time.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:18 ESV)
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:1-4 ESV)
Photos by Jenna D Photography