Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, January 25, 2016


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©

People were milling around in the expansive narthex of the church building, as Ann and her family greeted mourners before Bill’s memorial service. I had slipped into the sanctuary to listen to the band rehearse “When the Saints Go Marching In” for the postlude.

As I stood there, Jenifer came in through the door behind me, came up beside me, and without a word, put her arm around my waist. When the band had finished, without a word, she went back to the narthex.

I knew Jenifer least well of Bill’s five children and step-children. She had been close to grown up and out on her own when Bill and Ann married, a second marriage for each.

Even though we did not know each other well, Jenifer understood something I had not, that I was not there only as a leader, the one to deliver the eulogy for her step-father, but I was there as a mourner, too. I had lost a dear friend, one of my oldest friends, one with whom I had been through many trials. It was important for me to grieve.

At the time of a death, there will be grief. The only question is whether it will be good grief or bad grief, grief that leads to wholeness or grief that leads to division, both within a mourner and among the mourners. The purpose of a pastor is to help mourners grieve well rather than poorly.

I have usually done well at helping people step into good grief because I have taken the grief seriously but lightly. It is said that the reason angels can fly is because they take themselves so lightly. I have tried to bring a light touch to the time of death, not silly or frivolous, but light.

With her simple act of light and silent touching, Jenifer reminded me that I was not just a pastor but a mourner, that it was okay to feel the loss of my friend as well as to eulogize him.

John Robert McFarland

I started this blog several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] The grandchildren, though, are grown up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married. It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I am still trying to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter…

I tweet as yooper1721.

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