“And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days. So the days of weeping and mourning for Moses ended” (Deuteronomy 34:8).
Mourners with shovels and hoes moved a massive amount of earth to cover Eliahu’s casket. Stately pines, standing as silent witnesses, surrounded the grave and the many who had come to honor a truly dedicated servant of the Lord. It struck me as a communal act. Something ancient. Something holy. A shared experience of grief, touching the vulnerability of every one of us.
There’s nothing like a funeral to tenderize the heart. I’m writing on the day after bidding “l’hit’ra’ot/we’ll see you again” to Eliahu Ben Haim. Eliahu was a Messianic pioneer in the land and the leader of Intercessors for Israel, an indefatigable champion for prayer. His passion was intercession for Israel ― to see the fulfillment of God’s sovereign promises regarding the land, the people, and Yeshua’s ultimate return.
In heaven he joins two other all-out Israeli Messianic servants who passed in very recent days. Eddie Santoro (z”l) whom I wrote about in “Heroes of the Faith” June, 2019 issue. And, soberingly, just after Eliahu, Yishai Reinhardt (z”l)). Yishai, the founder of “Hands of Mercy,” poured himself out, thinking little of his own needs in order to focus on victims of terror, war, and hunger.
What’s happening? It feels like the inevitability of death is increasingly thrust before us. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” This is certainly true. And yet for us who remain, it is not easy. How to deal with grief? This question cannot be side-stepped. It is part of life, part of loving people in the rawness of loss.
1. Live According to the Preciousness of each Person, and of each Day.
This sense of loss presses in. Our brother, our sister, our friend, our colleague, is no longer with us ― gone. This finality provides a partial answer. Grief emphasizes the preciousness of every person, every day, every opportunity to love and bless. It emphasizes the imperative of forgiving each other quickly. It emphasizes the pricelessness of family. One day we will part company. What will we leave behind?
2. Grief is real ― Don’t try to wipe it away.
Our grief ― especially the aching loss suffered by spouses and immediate family ― is real. It does not need to be wiped away by statements like “he/she is in a better place.” Of course, that’s true; it is our rock solid hope. Yet in the here and now, where there is genuine loss, genuine regret, genuine pain ― grieving gives valuable expression to inexpressible esteem for the departed.
3. Give those grieving ― or those dying ― the open opportunity to share their process.
A treasured Israeli expert in the area of grief and dying, is Lynn Halamish. Her primary message on this tough, but vital subject has been so helpful to me. “Give them the platform to speak. Don’t try to generate words of comfort or identification. Be the best listener you can be. They need, if they so choose, to talk ― not to listen to you.” Of course, if you’re the one grieving, this works in reverse. When you feel the freedom, don’t hold back. Talk about your loved one. Give thanks through the tears. I saw a touching example of this at Eliahu’s funeral. His children, grandchildren, and incredible wife, Hannah, spoke so tenderly. We understood that for them, this public spokesman was more importantly a caring father, grandpa and husband.
Death has a way of defining life. It confronts us with the question, “What am I living for? What is truly of lasting value?” Eliahu, Eddie, Yishai, Marc, Katya, Esther ― and too many to name ― lived whole-heartedly for God’s purposes, re-establishing a Jewish testimony of Yeshua in His own land. Even as we grieve, we are inspired and fortified to go forward by their unwavering example.