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    Love Persevering

    Recovering Resurrection after a Year of Plague

    Alan Cross

    April 3, 2021
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    • Connie Owsley

      What a Wonderful Article. I am so sorry for the loss of your father during these trying times. I have lost both my parents and in-laws and so many other dear relatives. But the biggest loss of my life has been the loss of two of my Son’s. I struggle everyday to understand. Your article brought me comfort so I want to thank-you. Blessings of peace as you adjust to life without your father.

    • Chris

      Thank you. A beautiful reading this Easter Sunday. I lost a dear friend to Covid, a man who always said the exact right thing to me when I was struggling. He knew Jesus and shared Jesus in the most real way. I'll be forever grateful to him. He suffered a lot in the last few years, having had two strokes before covid moved through the assisted living facility he was living in. His last message to me was about how he looked forward to seeing me in person again soon. The other day I was feeling very alone and suddenly I felt as if he were telling me, "You are NOT alone." Love persevering!

    • Daniel and Carol Cookman

      I saw my father suffer horribly for about 40 years too He was robbed of his life BUT he was blessed with a deep love for Jesus.

    How do we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus after a year of plague when so much has been lost? For those who made it through alive, a sigh of relief can be exhaled. But for those who experienced great loss, this will be a different kind of Easter. It will be one where we celebrate the breaking forth from the grave of Jesus, the Son of God, while many have had to bury loved ones, not to see them again in this life. Every Easter is that way, I suppose, but this year the loss seems sharper and more acute. At least it does for me.

    My father, Terry Cross, died on November 27, 2020, the day after Thanksgiving. I wasn’t with him when he died. I was in California with my family, where we had moved the year before to pastor a church, and he was in a hospital in Louisiana with my sister by his side. I didn’t travel to be with him because of Covid-19, and because it seemed at first like the illness wasn’t really serious. A blur of conflicting messages were coming in from afar: I think he’s going to be okay after the initial scare and the doctors say he looks like he’s going to get better now, thank God, but then heart failure and he coded and there’s nothing they can do now and do you want to let him go and it would be better if you just let him go and once you tell us it’s okay, we’re going to let him go and he’s so tired and he really can’t come back from this now . . . I so wish I would have been there.

    When my father had a heart attack in 2019, I was with him for the bypass surgery. To recover, we got him into a rehab facility in our hometown in South Mississippi for what we thought would be a short stay. But he did not fare well and three months turned into longer, and then Covid-19 hit our planet and I couldn’t visit him anymore. Winter turned to summer, and we finally got the bad news in late July that my father had contracted the virus in the facility. His roommate got sick too and died right away. He was a nice man and he and my father had become friends.

    His faith in God in the midst of hardship is how I knew God was real.

    My dad at first seemed to get better quickly. But there were complications. I was finally able to visit him in October. I brought him his favorite foods, and we got to talk and say we loved each other. I thanked him for being my dad. He told me he was proud of me. With all that he had been through, I was worried that something else would happen and we might not see each other again. I pushed that out of my mind as I left and said I would see him soon. I planned to return after Christmas.

    But the week of Thanksgiving, things went very wrong. His nurses told me that they were seeing this more and more with Covid patients even after they recovered. His care providers began asking about what to do if he coded. We said we wanted them to do all they could to help him. Then he coded and they brought him back. He seemed to get better and the nurses were encouraged. Then his organs started to fail. I was able to FaceTime with him right before he died; in my mind’s eye I can still see him gasping for breath as I told him I loved him and that I was proud to be his son. I’m not sure he could hear me. Then he was gone.

    I was numb. I had never lived a day without my father. Now, for the rest of my life, I would. My mind couldn’t grapple with the finality of death. What I wouldn’t give for one more chance to talk to him.

    More than 550,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. My father was not officially one of them because there was no coronavirus in his system when he died, but the nurses and doctors said that his death was almost certainly brought on from complications related to Covid. All I know for sure is that he is gone and that I still grieve. We still have not been able to bury him. I haven’t even been able to travel home to be with my family. Death is final, but closure is elusive.

    painting of a chair in the sun with a bouquet of flowers on the seat

    John Singer Sargent, The Old Chair (public domain)

    My father suffered intensely for the last four decades of his life with horrible chronic pain from degenerative discs in his lower back. He was disabled at the age of forty, and throughout my childhood I saw him go through countless surgeries and daily suffering. Our home became dark with his pain, and hope for a better future for our family slowly evaporated as the years went on.

    But there was this constant glimmer of life that kept breaking in. My father looked to Jesus, as did my mother, and even through pain and suffering, he never wavered in his trust in God. When he could get himself moving, he would go to church with us and he would stand there and worship. Once when I was ten or eleven years old I looked up at him to see his face bright red, sweat pouring down, tears running from his eyes. He was worshipping God and thanking him for his goodness while he was also in excruciating pain with a broken body and life. His faith in God in the midst of hardship is how I knew God was real. Even as a young boy, I marveled. My father standing in place worshiping God while in agony and having lost his future did more to tell me God was with him, was with us, than anything. There was an enormous weight and power in this faith, this love pouring upon him from heaven that overcame the darkness.

    As I prepare my heart for Holy Week and Easter Sunday this year, for celebration of the Resurrection, I feel that darkness more than I ever have before. The finality of death’s cold fingers gripping at all of us in this year of plague seems ever present. I keep wanting to call my dad and tell him about something I saw on television or talk to him about football or just hear his voice. The desire comes up at various times, ambushing me and then, just as starkly, I am reminded that he is gone. Death’s door is closed, the stone rolled over the tomb. But something else breaks through, too, as deep love attends these feelings. A few weeks ago, watching Marvel’s WandaVision, I was shattered by this line: “What is grief if not love persevering?” Love just keeps going, chasing after its object, all the way through the veil of death. It won’t let go. In that perseverance, love knows something the mind cannot grasp.

    Hebrews 2:14–15 says about Jesus and all those he came to save, “Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.”

    In that perseverance, love knows something the mind cannot grasp.

    Jesus’s death was different than any before or since. As he was crucified, he declared, “It is finished,” and breathed his last, a bloody corpse hanging on a Roman cross. It all seemed so final that day. Hopes frustrated, fear filling his followers, and sorrow and darkness overtaking the land. Death seemed to get the final word. But the power of death was broken. Jesus rose and came out of the closed tomb. Somehow, the finality of it, of death, was reversed.

    For all of us who have tasted the bitterness of death with those we love leaving us, what if death wasn’t final? What if love could persevere and break its power? First for Jesus, then for us all? What if what we hope for is true? I believe it is, as my father did before me.

    I think back again on when I was a young boy and looked up at him in church, the congregation singing, my father weeping, both in joy and in pain. I know that Jesus was with him, showing him how much he was loved, how God had not forsaken him, how healing was coming for him one day. I know that the love he experienced has persevered and has carried him into eternity. And I know that because of the persevering love of a resurrected Savior, I will see him again.

    I once asked my father when I was young why he went to church and put his body through the pain to stand there and sing and listen to the preaching of God’s Word. He told me that he hurt too much and was too desperate not to go. That Jesus was all he had and he had to be with him and in his presence. That Jesus was enough. I carry that message with me, that Good News, even through this year of plague when I lost my father. Jesus is good and Jesus is enough. Jesus is making all things new, even breaking the power of death and freeing all of us who were held in slavery by our fear of death. My father also is free and I can see him worshipping even now, even through my own grief with love persevering.

    Contributed By

    Alan Cross is a Southern Baptist pastor, writer, and author of When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus (NewSouth Books, 2014).

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