Q. 1. What is your only comfort, in life and in death?A. That I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
My great-Grandma died on Easter Sunday when I was in sixth grade.
We were on a mini-vacation visiting my godfather and his wife. We were about ready to head home, but did so in a hurry. I don’t remember, but I assume we went home first since Grandma Ha-Ha (her name was Helen, but my aunt pronounced it Ha-Ha) only lived an hour from us. She had been at church that morning and then with family for lunch. She died driving the seven miles home that afternoon.
Since these were the closest extended family members, we often spent Easter afternoon at my great-aunt and uncle’s house. Unexpectedly we found ourselves there a few days after this particular Easter.
Doctors thought she had a massive heart attack, crossed the centerline and hit a semi-trailer head on. She died instantly. The other driver was not hurt physically, but was very shaken. I remember our family praying for the other driver, that he wouldn’t feel guilty. Even when there is nothing we could have done differently, we still feel guilt. We are convinced that there was some other choice we could have made, some other chain of events that would have made a difference. Something.
But really, most of the time, there is nothing we could have done differently.
As an 11-year old pragmatist, I had some comfort that death was instantaneous. As an 11-year old theologian (because we are all theologians, trying to understand God and ourselves), I actually thought it was kind of neat that she died on Easter. I had this image of her going to heaven with Jesus. Maybe we since we memorialized the Last Supper, the death / darkness of Good Friday, and the resurrection every year, I had some idea that Jesus also “relived” the resurrection every year. This is what I remember the most: the image of Jesus taking Grandma Ha-Ha’s hand and bringing her to heaven.
This week, Jesus took the hand of another beautiful, faithful woman and brought her to heaven.
There are two Greek words usually used for “life” in the New Testament. ζωη connotes our biological life and is the most commonly used. ψυκη, on the other hand, is also often translated “soul.” It is the essence of who we are, encompassing the physical, emotional and spiritual.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:8, Paul writes,
Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. (NIV)
Surely Paul and Timothy did share their lives living among the Thessalonians. They didn’t just pass time with the Thessalonians but shared the very essence of who they were. But this is not just ζωη but ψυκη.
These words were true for Paul – and they are also true for Candace. Those who have spent time with Candace know her for the overflowing grace of her life. She has been a tireless and faithful servant in big ways – but even more so in quiet ways that reflected the humility and love that were her ψυκη. Candace’s service to the homeless was more than a desire to serve the least of these. For her, they were not the least but beloved brothers and sisters. With those she spent time with, especially at Repairers of the Breach, she surely shared the love of Christ and her ψυκη.
Candace may have taken her own life, but she only took what is housed in these perishable bodies of ours – her ζωη. Her ψυκη continues to belong to Christ in death just as she did in life. Our grief and loss are significant but the hope – and truth – of Easter is that just like my Grandma Ha-Ha, Jesus has already taken her hand and brought her to heaven.
I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. – Romans 8:38-39 (CEB)