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Dealing With Deaths During Our Lifetime
By Lauraine Bruss

As the second last child of a family of 10 children, I have had my share of joys, and sorrows, shared with the number of loved ones a large family eventually turns into. Joys and sorrows are constantly shared if the family is close knit, and ours was very close, enjoying one another for holidays when the family got together, at weddings, and other special occasions.

Being in a large extended family, we also live through many family deaths. Aside from deaths expected of grandparents and other relatives, because of their age, and with explanations from parents, one grows up expecting to lose those much older than you. A baby, however, is a completely different situation to contend with.

My first niece, born on December 25, died on the following April 4th, when I was just 9 years old. This experience is quite different, especially in the eyes of a child. I can understand why, when a child attending school dies, the administrators feel it important to having counselors on hand for the schoolmates of the one who died.

Another memory was of a young woman who drowned in the local area, which seemed unfair since she drowned as she attempted to save her brother. We realized what a good thing she was doing that caused her death and that was a lesson for us.

The deaths of two soldiers, during WWII, whose families were within a 10 mile radius of our home left memories in my mind. Having gone to the memorial service for one, I still remember how different this seemed from the funerals we attended when a body was there.

Years later, after all members of our family were married, five members of our extended family died in the span of one year; a set of twins, followed by the death of their mother, and two other brothers who each lost a baby son. That is when one comes head on to reality of what can happen and all are affected.

Having the close ties our family had, everyone grieved as they experienced the sorrow of one brother and sister in law who lost three babies, all less than a year old. We were thankful and rejoiced with them that two other children grew up into adulthood. When their grown daughter lost one of a set of twins, the thought of history repeating itself entered our minds, however, the other children are all healthy and growing up, taking their places in society. At the time of the deaths of their three infants, we realized how important it is to have family around and my heart aches for those who have to live through the death of a beloved family member by themselves.

Then, what in our minds was the most tragic, was when, late one night, we got the call that our 17 year old grandson was killed in an automobile accident. That is hard to accept but one lives through those days and never forgets, also remembering the good that comes from tragedy.

Knowing this grandson was a Christian makes all the difference in the world. Not involving drinking or drugs, and driving at the speed set on the highway, it was determined that conditions of the road caused the accident. Events that happened for months after this tragedy were a comfort to us.

The first was when the family received a letter from two young ladies who were probably the first to be on the scene after the accident. Being twins, the one young lady explained how they came to the accident and, not being able to do anything, they prayed for the family. In their letter they also assured the family that they were sure none of the four young people who were killed had suffered. This was what helped to ease the pain of not knowing what the circumstances were at the time of death.

The second letter the family received was from a gentleman who arrived on the scene shortly after the accident and he also expressed his concern and prayers for the remaining members of the families. He shared that, although he didn't know if the family would believe it or not, there was such an aura of peace and tranquility that he had never experienced before and he wanted the family to know that God and His Angels were indeed there with them. Being Christians, we do believe this and it was just so comforting to know a gentleman would be so concerned for the family of someone he didn't even know and take the time to share that with them.

Receiving these notes from those who were the first on the scene, and what they shared, helped the grieving family immensely, and I can only encourage everyone who has the opportunity to ever be able to share something comforting with the remaining family, after a tragedy, to please do that.

When graduation time came, rows of seats were saved for the families of these young people and the graduation ceremony was dedicated to them. The parents were given the certificates these young students would have received, had they been alive. The words spoken about them were very touching. The huge banners that were put in the high school halls after these young people were killed, giving students in the school the opportunity to write personal notes, were given to the families.

The students wrote notes directly to the deceased and it brought tears to the eye when one read what they expressed. What a testimony! It assured everyone that these were truly loved fellow students, as was also witnessed when the long stream of students passed the casket for the funeral, each putting a red rose in a container. Though tears flow at a time like that, it eases the grief to know that your loved one was admired by so many. When many frown on the clothes teens wear and how they wear their hair, judging our youth, we all have to admit that most of them are really wonderful young people but, because we cannot look in their heart, we have the tendency to judge them by what we see and do them an injustice by the thoughts we form.

Good can come from tragedy and the testimonies of people regarding those who died, were witnesses to what kind of young people they were. I will just mention two instances here of events that took place. The times they told of things the deceased person did, with some being hilarious, some being thoughtful, along with other instances of their being together with youth and adults, are precious memories to savor.

A close relative of one of the young ladies who lost her life wrote how she was dying of cancer and she didn't know what would happen when she leaves this earth. Reading about all of the positive statements published in several newspapers about these teens whose lives were to an end amazed her. Realizing that they did not fear death, or what would come after that, she stated, "I am a 64 year old lady dying of cancer and have no idea what will happen to me. How could they be so positive about where they would end up?" These young people were Christians and, because of this incident, she became a Christian just days before she died. What a blessing, and what a joy to her family members, knowing this lady had a peaceful death after all, not fearing death any longer.

Another event was when the schools, to honor the memory of these students who died in the accident, set aside a day when they asked pastors from all the local churches to be on hand and make themselves available to any student who had questions about anything disturbing that they were experiencing in their lives at the time, whether at home, at school, or wherever they were in their life. During the day hours they made themselves available to the children in the lower grades. In the evening they had planed a special event for the older children, and those of high school age. Again, the clergy made themselves available to any of the students who felt they needed help and wanted to talk to one of them. Reaching out to all of these young people was indeed the opportunity some may have taken to receive help and was a tribute and blessing we remember, as an outcome of the tragedy.

When a Christian dies, we all know they will live again, in eternity, and we are happy for them. The people who don't know what happens when their loved one is taken in death are the ones I feel badly for. They don't have the hope that Christians have so they are more than distraught with the death of their loved one. In these cases, I would encourage anyone who knows them, to try and have them meet with a member of the clergy who can give them peace of mind. Having had contact with some who have no hope, I am thankful for the training I was given, and the comfort it gives me.

Each loss to death that I experienced in my lifetime, had an affect on my outlook of life. I have gained insight in each case and have been able to share some of my experiences with others at a tragic time in their life. Some of those same people thanked me and expressed how my sharing my experiences helped them.

In everything that happens, one can find blessings if one just looks for them. With the death of a loved one, the same is true. These are the memories one should want to keep for the future because, regardless of how much time passes, this is what is comforting as we think of our loved ones with fond memories. In our world, at this time, with all the shooting, drugs, stealing, lying, and the other things being done that are evil, sometimes we have to admit that when someone dies, they are far better off, depending on what they knew would happen after their death.


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