On Christmas Eve my husband called me in the middle of the day. Something in the catch of his voice alarmed me. He started to say that Brock had just called. He paused and collected his voice. Suddenly I knew with all certainty what he was going to say. He measured out the words, “They just found his dad dead.” Until he spoke those words I still had hope that I misinterpreted the heartache my husband’s voice was laced with and the ache his pauses accentuated.
Yesterday I stood in a long line of people waiting to say a final farewell to a David Hughey. I stood there observing grief. I was soaked in sorrow while absorbing the suddenness of death. Psalm 23:4 came to mind, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
It struck me that the valley of the shadow of death wears a permanent grove into our lives. New grief stirs up old loss. They intermingle in unexpected ways. It is as if the shadow of death sweeps into your life and lingers, waiting for the next opportunity to cast sorrow back upon your heart. My grief from losing my mom gives me great empathy for Dave’s family. I felt emotionally intertwined with the fresh mourning of Dave’s family as I stood in line waiting to pay my respects.
My mind lingered on the last time I saw Dave with his son Brock. They were driving down my driveway. Dave was sitting beside his son beaming with pride, joy and an unbelievable love that exuded from him at all times. Dave waved enthusiastically as they paused to greet me. Dave’s smile is the image that will always resonate with me as defining him. He wore it easily and with sincerity.
The long line of people who waited to say goodbye was evidence of a life lived out loud, with an open heart and a welcoming smile. I was in awe of the number of lives touched by Dave and deeply honored to be among them. Sometimes we are privileged to share a fraction of our life with very special people like Dave and his wife Brenda.
Today we attended Dave’s funeral. I watched death invade the living with tears and sorrow. And yet death had no victory in Dave’s life, because he has simply been called home. He is enjoying an eternal celebration. It is those of us who are left behind who feel the darkness cast by the shadow of death as we cope with the hole left in our lives by our loved ones. My heart breaks for Dave’s wife and his kids. But Dave’s life encompassed a multitude of people who found family and friendship in Dave’s arms wide open life.
Brock gave the eulogy for his dad today. He told us that his dad always said, “Anything you do today you will have to sleep with tonight.” I know Dave lived that phrase because I see evidence of it in his son. Dave left a legacy of faith, character and love in his wake. He lived in the bold print of life and I am abundantly blessed that our lives intersected if only for a moment.
The hope I’ve discovered in grief is that the second part of Psalm 23:4 is true. God is faithful to comfort his beloved. Grieving in the arms of the Lord is the most intimate exposure you will ever experience with Him. God is near to the brokenhearted. He will walk beside you on the messy path of grief until you are ultimate reunited in heaven with your loved ones.