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Grandpa Has Died: The Paradox of Celebrating New Life and Mourning Old Death

by Carson T. Clark on March 10, 2014

My last remaining grandparent, Ben Meinhardt, has finished the race. After spending nearly two weeks with him in hospice care, Grandpa is now with the Lord. How do I feel right now? Conflicted.

On the one hand, my hope lies in the resurrection. I trust grandpa will rest in peace and rise in glory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? Every other week at University Abbey we pray, “I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” I take great comfort in that, knowing that after 20 years he has finally been reunited with Grandma Myrna. One day those of us who remain will join them in eternal life, love, and reconciliation.

On the other hand, death is unnatural. Creation itself groans against such corruption. We all sense this to the core of our beings. Despite our future hope death continues to plague humanity. I believe that’s why Jesus wept over Lazarus’ death despite his understanding of the resurrection to come. Grandpa had a good and long life of 86 years, but that doesn’t remove the dull echo of death’s lingering power in taking him. Death still leaves an emptiness for those who remain.

Therein lies the great paradox of this present age, I suppose. We celebrate new life with the second Adam even while we mourn old death with the first Adam. All at once it’s a beginning and an end, a birth and a funeral. The key is not to elevate that conflict and tension, but to embrace it as the state of this “Already-Not Yet” world. Probably not the quote most people would be finding solace in right about now, but here I turn to Elton Trueblood:

One of the best contributions which Christian thought can make to the thought of the world is the repetition that life is complex. It is part of the Christian understanding of reality that all simplistic answers to basic questions are bound to be false. Over and over, the answer is both-and rather than either-or.

Call me a weirdo but I find comfort in that. It speaks truth, representing well the present human condition… Oh, and if the restored earth has a pool table, Grandpa is goin’ down. Just sayin’.

  • Jerry Cimijotti

    I am sorry for your loss. What Paul wrote in First Thessalonians 4 is worth remembering: “But we do not want you to be uniformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” Paul, unlike most Christians today, grants the reality (even necessity) of grieving since, as you point out, death is unnatural and leaves a void, but at the same time we do so with hope. We should not have a “celebration of life” without also acknowledging the corruption of death. You and your family will be in my prayers.

    It is a rare but delightful thing to see an Elton Truebood quote. Not sure why he has not attained a more popular status within the Christian community, each of his books is a thought provoking and spiritually challenging read.

    • carsontclark

      Amen. Amen and amen.

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