“You have loved me well.  Love others well moving forward.” It was when my mother said these words from her hospital bed that I knew she was preparing to leave us for Heaven. Perhaps you’ve heard people speak of a good death. This was it.  

I had been in Oklahoma City when the call came. My mother had been ill for quite some time but dad was calling to say that she was in the hospital and not doing well.  I flew home to Nashville, picked up my son, hopped in the car and drove immediately to Indiana. Gratefully, we got there in time.

The last thing my mother said to me was, “I love you Steven.” My son was standing next to me at the time. She added, “and my Henry.”  

Not long after she said to my father, “I’m tired of hurting. I want to go be with Jesus.”

Tony Wood and Joel Lindsey’s song As Good as Goodbye Gets depicts the bittersweet, tender beauty of a good goodbye. There is the acknowledgement of a life well lived, the blessed assurance of the next chapter, all wrapped in the love and closeness of a loving family.

There’s a deep, deep sadness

That comes with letting go  

Yet even though I’m grieving

There is peace and there is hope  

‘cause everyone who knew you

Knew the heartbeat of your days

Your eyes were fixed on Jesus

Now you’re finally face to face

Gloria Gaither once told me about her experience of being with people at the time of death. She said that in the moment when a person crosses over its like a door opens up and a little bit of Heaven’s stardust is let into the room.

Those who are fortunate enough to have this experience are fortunate indeed. But what about those who are not so fortunate? The death of a loved one and the grief that follows are hard enough to process when things go “well.”  

But what about when they don’t?

What if the death is unexpected? What if the death is sudden and violent?  What if it seems random and purposeless? What if there are things left unsaid or worse yet, hurtful words left unresolved? Though coping with the loss of a loved one is never easy, these kinds of circumstances can make the pain almost unendurable.

That is why Tony Wood, Scott Krippayne, and I wrote No!

I remember one night sharing news of an unexpected death with a loved one. The response was immediate shock and denial.  I was physically shoved back as if rejecting the messenger would change the message.

No! honestly examines the feelings that are expressed when death comes out of the blue.  They are at the same time involuntary and very necessary. We cannot jump to acceptance of so horrible an event.  

“Good grief” requires us to work through a whole host of emotions. The process is messy and visceral.

No!

This can’t be happening

Start this day over again

No!

Don’t say those words

Keep things the way that they’ve always been

I don’t believe what you’re saying is true

Stop it! I ’m not going to listen to you.

No! No! No!

A therapist who consulted with us on Drink Deep, our CD that takes the bereaved on a musical journey through the grieving process, told me that it takes people on average sixteen months to go through all the stages of grief once.  But grief is not a linear process.  She described it as like being on a spiral staircase where the healing stages are re-visited time and time again but from a different perspective.

Please understand that grief is not something one can rush. It is also not something that can be ignored or avoided.   

If you, or someone you love is grieving the loss of a loved one, the fourteen songs on Drink Deep can be revisited for comfort and encouragement throughout the grieving process. Many churches offer a support group program called GriefShare that can provide a safe place to work through the pain and sorrow.

Hope and healing are possible.  

There is life after death. Both in eternity and here on earth as well.