After spending a fantastic week in Kansas City with joy starters from around the country, it was time to go home. As Jim W. taught us, back to LA, my “dirt.” My friend, Mike, and I are ready to board the plane when I received a text from my wife. A husband and father of two children, 5 and 10 years old, was killed in a motorcycle accident that day. Grandma, aunt and cousins are active in our church family. I didn’t know the guy killed, or his wife that well, but I know the other family members very well. Since we were arriving late, I knew I wouldn’t get to visit the family until Monday.
Now, it is always difficult to be with folks at the death of loved ones, especially when it is so sudden and tragic. Even for me and “I do death well.” At least that’s what a friend told me after attending several funerals where I officiated.
Experience. I have been a pastor for 34 years, but I have been around death since I can remember. I am the son, grandson, and great-grandson of funeral directors. Going to grandma’s house meant going to a funeral home, as my grandparents lived upstairs. Playing hide and seek around the caskets with my brothers was a highlight. I started working visitations in 9th grade.
But, it is still hard for a pastor and funeral director’s son to deal with tragic death, just like it is for anyone else.
On the plane back, I read the new book, Passing The Peace. I decided getting people onto Peace Island was the way to go.
I went to visit the family on Monday and there were 10 people present, aged 5-85. As I mentioned, I know the children, a cousin, the grandmother and aunt, well. We spoke a bit and then I invited them to enter into prayer. I told the group I learned a way of prayer this week I thought would be helpful. I told them they would be my “guinea pigs,” as this would be the first time to try this process.
It was an amazing sharing of God’s presence and peace! For about an hour we prayed and shared. Everyone there was able to share a God-bringing-peace experience and share what they heard from God. Four generations. Most poignant was the widow who spoke of some rough times recently in their marriage, but things were getting better and she was grateful for peace and God’s presence on a recent family camping trip. God had been there for them in a healing way. When thinking about, “What did God want you to know?” she shared God saying to her about her husband, “He loves you so much.”
This process is such a gift.
I asked the people present to share their experience with others. I have. I have already taught this prayer to ten recently homeless folks at a weekly Bible study I do at a halfway house, and taught it to staff and family. God showed up in remarkable ways. Quite a week! Can’t wait to hear what happens when others “pass the peace.”
Usually pastors will tell you to just be present with people after a loved one dies. It’s not the words that are so important. I still think this is wise counsel. It is, of course, God’s presence through our presence. But, now, I recommend words.
I think of what a gift for anyone to “pass the peace” in this way.
What a blessing it can be for folks facing the death of loved ones, or after the death of loved ones. Discovering Peace Island in the storms of grief. What a gift during any crisis. Focusing on the God who is with us, and listening for what he wants us to hear.