The shortest verse in most versions of the Bible consists of only two words: “Jesus wept.” They were recorded in John 11:13 and referred to the time Jesus visited the tomb of Lazarus, who had died four days earlier.
Traveling through the death process with another can feel like a mystery. We don’t know when the transition will come. We don’t know what the other feels as death draws near. It may even conjure up questions of our own mortality. What will the end of life — this life — be like?
During my grandpop’s final days, hospice told us what happens to the body both physically and emotionally at the end of life. Phsyically the body goes through a series of “shut down” stages. This process is visible — congestion, restlessness, withdraw — and it ends when the body ceases to function.
But spiritually there is a different dynamic at work with “release” stages.They say that the spirit of the dying person seeks a type of permission to let go from family members, surroundings and all worldly attachments. According to HospiceNet.org, these events are the “normal, natural way in which the spirit prepares to move from this existence into the next dimension of life.”
Both the physical and spiritual processes must complete for death to occur, but notice how the worldy body shuts down and dies while the spirit lets go and “moves.” We don’t know with certainty what each person’s spiritual journey entails, but these notes from hospice certainly help shed some light.
The phsyical stages are difficult to watch, but it seems like it’s the spiritual stages of release that hurt our hearts. We too must let go, and this often causes deep emotion. It marks the end of our life with that person as we know it and signifies a time of change. But as we continue to learn, change opens us to new beginnings. Whether it happens over time or suddenly, letting go of this life means finding true life.
If our new life awaits us after this one, why did Jesus cry at the tomb of Lazurus?
Many believe He didn’t cry about Lazurus’ physical death; He cried out of compassion for those around Him. These three points back up this belief:
1. When Jesus first heard about Lazurus’ illness, he said to his followers, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).
2. When Jesus saw Lazurus’ sister Mary and those who came with her crying, we read that Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33). After that, Jesus wept.
3. In earlier events, we see that Jesus feels sorry for a grieving mother at her son’s funeral procession in Luke 7:12-15 and tells her not to cry. He then raises the boy from the dead. In another report, he raises up a young girl who just died, telling everyone right before, “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mark 6:36).
From this life we are headed to a new life, free of worldly troubles, free of sin. And we don’t go alone. Jesus not only cures “death,” but he shares in our sorrows along the way. Like Lazurus, he raises us to new life.
It’s hard to let go of how we understand our relationships in the flesh to be; it takes time. And yet we know our loved ones in a greater way when they (and we) are free of this world. The end of life is the beginning of life. What seems like a loss is truly a gain — a major, magnificet and beautiful win. We don’t have to be afraid, we just have to believe.
Love and blessings to all. In memory of our Grandpop Pete and the Valdez family’s Grandpop Jim.