This has been the strangest Holy Week of my life. My grandmother passed away on April 5th, my favorite singer-songwriter died from coronavirus on the 7th, and my mother called today to inform me that my other grandmother was put on hospice and will likely not survive the weekend. It seems like I can’t escape the reality of death.
Because of the current state of our social-distancing world, my grandmother’s funeral was little more than a procession to the burial-site where the majority of those in attendance were asked to stay in their car. No service. No words to celebrate the life of a lady I admired.
My mother asked me if I’d say a prayer at the grave-site. I hesitated to say yes. I’m not sure why. After considering the opportunity to share the love of Jesus with many in my family who do not know him, I began writing a prayer while reflecting on the life of my grandmother.
She loved to dance. I can’t remember the precise dance style, but I remember her spending evenings with friends dancing and making memories. I thought I could remember my grandfather attending these events with her, but my mother assured me that she didn’t start dancing until after his death, which happened when I was very young.
My grandmother possessed a joy that I envy. She would always light up when one of her grandchildren entered a room. She would lavish them with hugs and kisses.
I believe she knew Jesus. Sadly, I never had a great faith conversation with her as my wife and I left home shortly after I became a Christian. By the time we moved back home, my grandmother’s memory was so bad she often didn’t remember me. She still smiled and offered up hugs and kisses, however.
While I was reflecting on her love for dancing, Psalm 30:11 came to mind. In the verse, it is said that God turns our mourning into dancing. I wrote the following prayer after considering our need for dancing in light of the heartache of loss. I delivered it at the drive-by funeral on April 8th.
Our Father in heaven,
We mourn the loss of a mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and great great grandmother.
We mourn the loss of a friend, a dance partner, and a St. Louis Cardinals fan.
We mourn the loss of a woman who saw the good in others when they couldn’t see it in themselves.
We mourn the loss of a woman who knew how to laugh and have a good time — a woman with an inviting smile who enjoyed the life you gave her.
We mourn the loss of a woman you created with a passion for dancing.
Yes, Father, we mourn. But we do not mourn indefinitely.
Your word tells us that you turn our mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11 ESV).
So, we dance because death does not have the last word.
We dance because, at the cross of Jesus, you broke the power of Satan and the power of death.
We dance because your word tells us that all who place faith in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
We dance because we know that Ruth will rise again in a physical body, to live on a physical earth, in the presence of our physical Savior, to dance a dance more exhilarating than any she experienced in this life.
We thank you Father for Ruth and the many lives she touched.
She is dancing with you at this moment. We long to join that dance when we are once again together because of the grace and mercy of faithful Jesus.
It’s in his beautiful name we pray. Amen.
The book of Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (3:1,4).
I’m not sure if my prayer had an impact on any of my relatives, but it certainly had an impact on me. The truth that death doesn’t have the last word is a truth I needed to be reminded of this week.
It’s a little ironic that death would present itself to me during Holy Week. As I write this, Christians all over the world are remembering the death of our Lord and Savior and preparing to celebrate his victory over it. After all, Easter is about the death of death.
At the cross, Jesus bore our sin, shame, guilt, and death. We deserve the wrath that was poured out on him. There are consequences for our sin. That’s not surprising. What is surprising, even shocking, is that Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live and died the death we should’ve died all so we would be reconciled to the Father. That’s pretty remarkable. All we have to do is receive the gift of grace offered by Jesus.
I don’t know your story. But there is one thing I know about you. You will experience death. There is a day coming when the lights will turn off for good. Are you ready to meet Jesus? Have you come face-to-face with your sin and acknowledged your need for a rescuer? If not, maybe today can be that moment. Don’t let the Easter holiday pass you by without considering what the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus means for your eternity. Death does not have to torment you. Death does not have the last word.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Hebrews 2:14-15