It’s hard to know how to describe the last three weeks. I could say that it was a wonderful and memorable Christmas season. That would be true. I could say it was a time of painful and agonizing loss. That would be true. I could say it was filled with chaos and at the same time unexpected peace – because that is also true. And still, it doesn’t begin to describe the alternating highs and lows of this season.
Two weeks before Christmas my father-in-law’s health took a steep decline. He had been struggling with serious issues for more than a year, but they suddenly became urgent. After a few days in the hospital, the prognosis was grim. Family was called and a hard process of saying goodbye began.
Contrasting with the difficult hospital vigil was a house brimming with delights of the season. Decorations were hung. Lights glimmered on the tree. Carols played and packages waited to be wrapped. Soon the house would be full of kids and grandkids coming home to celebrate – and say farewell.
At times the house was full of hushed whispers as we talked about how grandpa looked that day. At other times, there was loud laughter and holiday fun. While I finished the gift wrapping, my husband quietly began to wrap up his dad’s affairs. At the house Christmas carols played, while at the hospital, we sang hymns of comfort. Around the tree we exchanged gifts, around the hospital bed we exchanged goodbyes. At home kids, dogs, and babies ran in and out. At the hospital, it was the hospice nurses who came and went.
Some would say that the worst time to face such a profound loss would be during the Christmas season, but there was a kind of beauty and odd symmetry in it all. The greatest peace in facing death comes from knowing with surety that death leads to life. Christmas, after all, was God coming into a world filled with death to overcome it and bring life. He came wrapped in swaddling clothes to be hope in the very crisis we faced.
On Christmas Morning, as we remembered the long anticipated Christ child, we were deeply comforted in our anticipation that Grandpa Charley would soon meet Him face to face. His life would not truly end in that hospital bed. That is where it would begin anew.
Charles Anthony Wier Sr., Grandpa Charley, walked into the presence of His Savior just hours after Christmas. That is when his season of celebration began.
We celebrated too. We celebrated his life in memorial with family we haven’t seen in years. There were tears for sure, but mostly laughter and gratitude, for him and each other. We celebrated my husband’s birthday sandwiched in all the chaos. We celebrated a new year full of new hope and promise. And this weekend, we all come together again to celebrate the wedding of one of Charley’s granddaughters.
Life goes on, but there is no need to feel guilty. For as life goes on for us, so it goes on for him – and all those who place faith in the Savior who first came as a babe.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24
“Jesus said… ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” John 11: 24-26
Charley’s answer was “Yes, I believe.” What is your answer?