By Wayne S. Walker
[Note: When my Grandmother Workman died in 1983, I wrote an article about her passing which appeared in the April 7, 1983, edition of Guardian of Truth (Vol. XXVII, No. 7; pp. 26-27). Although placed in the “Obituaries” section, it was not intended so much to be a eulogy of her life as it was a reflection on her passing. It may have been published previously in the church bulletin at Medina, OH, where I was then located, and is based on the remarks I made while preaching her funeral. WSW.]
On March 3, 1983, one of the sweetest and loveliest ladies on earth, Mrs. Mildred Holladay Workman, my own maternal grandmother, passed away in her sleep. Two days later she would have been 76 years old. Although she was a stroke victim and had suffered the effects of that for over ten years, she was doing relatively well at the time of her passing. Grandmother meant a great deal to me. During the time that I was growing up, she and my grandfather were a constant source of help, encouragement, and affection to me, their oldest grandson, and I will always appreciate that very much.
However, the purpose of this article is not so much to talk about her. She was a faithful Christian, and that is all that needs to be said about her life. She was raised in a Methodist home, but there was a time when she heard the gospel of Christ and believed it, repented of her sins, confessed her faith in Jesus as Lord, and was baptized into Christ for the remission of her sins. And though her later years were spent in a nursing home, she continued steadfast. Until the last couple of months of her life when she was afflicted by an additional painful illness, she attended worship services on Sundays every time she was able.
Her life speaks for itself. But there are several things which we can learn from her death. In Ecclesiastes 7:2, Solomon wrote, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to heart.” What lessons are there for us in the house of mourning as we grieve for a lost loved one?
We can learn about the very nature of life itself. God is the ultimate source of all life. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.” Even though it cannot be explained by scientists, we believe that when we are conceived God breathes into our nostrils the breath of life just as He did for Adam in Genesis 2:7. Yet, when one who is near and dear to us passes away, especially when it is rather sudden, we are reminded of what James wrote in James 4:14, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” This earthly life is so frail and fragile.
Also, we learn about death, because when life ceases, death takes place. James 2:26 tells us, “The body without the spirit is dead.” According to Ecclesiastes 12:9, the body returns to the dust whence it came and the spirit to the control of God who gave it. For many, such as my grandmother, death is a welcome relief from pain and suffering. And for all Christians, it is the opportunity to do what Paul desired to do in Philippians 1:12, “to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.” Yet death is also referred to as an enemy of mankind (1 Corinthians 15:25-26). It is not an enemy to deceased believers for they are in a far better place. Rather, it is an enemy to those left behind because it separates us from our loved ones. This sense of loss which our Savior saw at the tomb of Lazarus was the reason why “Jesus wept” in John 11:35. Even though He knew full well that He would raise His friend from the dead again, He sorrowed with those who suffered grief. However, according to Hebrews 2:14-15, Jesus came “that through death, he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Because of this, we can say with David, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).
Then, we learn about hope, because the death and resurrection of Jesus bring hope. Christians have many blessings in this life (Ephesians 1:3). One of these is loving brethren to comfort us in times of trial and tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Another is what 1 Peter 3:3-4 calls “a living hope” of “an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” Through trust in God and confidence in His word, we know that by faith in Christ and obedience to His will, we can be reunited in a place where we shall never have to worry about being parted again. For this reason, Paul referred to it as a “blessed hope” in Titus 2:11-14, and 2 Peter 3:13 says, “We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth” where all this will take place. May God grant us the strength to live in such a way as to love, serve, and please Him, that we might also have this hope by which we can be saved, as Paul wrote in Romans 8:24.
My grandmother was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Glen Workman who was a gospel preacher for many years. Many friends and brethren have offered their condolences and sorrow. Yet, we do not sorrow “as others which have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Certainly death is not a time for frivolity or gaiety, and there is nothing wrong with mourning—it is entirely natural for such an occasion. But at the same time, we can be “rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:12) because of the promises of Jesus Christ.
The unknown poet expressed this hope so well when he wrote:
That sweetest, dearest tie that binds
Our glowing hearts in one,
That sacred hope that tunes our minds
To harmony divine:
It is the hope, the blissful hope,
That Jesus’ grace has given,
The hope when days and years are passed
We all shall meet in heaven.
It is my prayer that all of us may conduct our lives in such a way so that we can be found acceptable in God’s sight, as Grandmother always sought to do, and when it comes our time to follow her in death that we might have the same joyful expectation that she did.
—taken from Guardian of Truth; April 7, 1983; Vol. XXVII, No. 7; pp. 26-27