May 1st, 2020.
My grandfather died.
A sudden brain bleed took his life in Toronto, ON. And here I was in Osaka, Japan.
His funeral was held on May 5th. Only eight people could attend in-person. And here I was in Osaka, Japan.
No one imagines the death of a loved one to be a pleasant experience. It hurts. It doesn’t make sense. It causes questions to be asked that one never thinks of asking.
“Is this a joke, God? Seriously? He doesn’t know You. None of them know You. Why are You doing this?”
But to lament like this from the other side of the planet—I felt a helplessness inside that gave way to anger and confusion.
“You allowed my grandfather to die and now I can’t even grieve with family because You allowed a pandemic to wreak havoc on the planet? Why?”
The travel and self-quarantine restrictions following the COVID-19 outbreak prevented me from being where I wanted to be, and with whom I wanted to be with. The helplessness was tortuous. I was forced to text, video chat, and call family members to grieve with them. It wasn’t the same. As the only Christian in my family, I felt the obligation to be more to them than what I was forced to be. How will they experience Christ if I’m not there manifesting Christ in me to them?
God has a way of responding to our doubts and fears—an almost humorous way.
The funeral service was live-streamed on Tuesday, May 5th in Toronto at 1:30pm, which was Wednesday, May 6th in Osaka at 2:30am. During the early hours of the morning, I listened as the priest read John 11:18-29 (emphasis mine):
"Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.'
"Jesus told her, 'Your brother will rise again.'
“ 'Yes,' Martha said, 'he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.'
"Jesus told her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?'
“ 'Yes, Lord,' she told him. 'I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.' Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, 'The Teacher is here and wants to see you.' So Mary immediately went to him."
There God was, speaking His grace and truth to my family as I watched thousands of kilometres away. He provided.
A few verses later, the text says: Then Jesus wept.
The God who wept over the death of a close friend is also weeping with my family. We lost a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather…and friend. Jesus, the friend of sinners, is not distant from my family. He will not quarantine Himself from my family. He is with them, whether they know it or not.
And even though I am not with them in the flesh, the tears of Christ are His provision for my family—something a pandemic could never kill.
*Photo credit: James Tissot, Jesus Wept (Jésus pleura)