Because of Fundamentalism Do Evangelicals Miss Opportunities of Grace and Closure When it Comes to the Topic of Death?

A personal post asking if during the grieving process if fundamentalists miss opportunities of grace. Reminiscing on some strange situations in my family since my Mom’s death, and the follow up discussion with a pastor. Heaven is not a vault, instead its to be thought of as a screen door. This is a post reflecting on my ongoing grieving process. 

“Heaven means to be one with God.”

Thomas Moore 

“We talk about heaven being so far away. It is within speaking distance to those who belong there. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.”

Dwight L Moody 

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 NIV 

 

This is going to be a personal post, and its something that I decided to write about after thinking through the topic. As you know my Mom died on April 1, 2017. It has been a period of grief, mourning, pain and more. There are so many times when I want to pick up the phone and call my Mom. There are time I expect she will text me. I still can’t believe that she is gone. Its been a heavy burden in my family as it has redefined my family. Since my Mom’s death there have been a number of strange things both in California, Montana and in the Washington, D.C. area. In order to understand this post let me tell you a couple of things about my Mom. My Mom adored hummingbirds and when I was growing up became excited by them. My Mom also loved butterflies. My Mom would get delighted when she saw a butterfly. My Mom’s death has been hard and we all miss my Mom and struggle in her absence. 

 

A Card from Mom? 

My Dad has struggled quite a bit with my Mom’s loss. He misses her deeply and my Dad and my sister make a regular trip to the cemetery to see my Mom’s grave. I will say in light of my Mom’s death driving by a cemetery takes on a new meaning. While my Dad misses my Mom something happened at home that is quite strange and yet its given my family comfort. Here is what happened. My Mom died on April 1, 2017 and we all have gone through and still are dealing with the grieving process. My Dad was very stunned by how things went. About a month or so after my Mom’s death something weird happened at home that has been mystifying for my family. My Dad was getting ready for work and he went outside into the garage to go to the car. In the garage right in front of the car was a Hallmark card. It was sealed and my Dad was puzzled by its placement and picked it up and opened the card. It was a Valentine’s Day card that said, “I love you” and it was signed by my Mom. My Dad was baffled and went inside and spoke with my sister and showed him the card. My sister was also confused and they looked it over and tried to figure out. How did it get there? It didn’t fall down, the way it was placed on the garage cement was designed to get my Dad’s attention. After discussing it my Dad and sister came to the conclusion that my Mom gave the card and did so to let us know that she is fine, and that all is well. My sister called me here in Washington, D.C. and I was puzzled by hearing this as well. For my Dad and my sister they found peace and some closure and its helped them with their grieving. But this in someways is just the beginning. 

 

The Hummingbird Situation… 

One day my sister was doing dishes in the kitchen and something happened that grabbed her attention. A hummingbird popped up outside the window and stayed there for a few minutes watching my sister clean the dishes. It just hovered and floated like hummingbirds do. My sister noticed it and found it odd but she felt comforted for some reason. Later on my sister and Dad took the dog for a walk and as they walked they noticed a hummingbird that followed them for part of the walk. My sister and Dad have discussed this hummingbird and became convinced that its my Mom sending a sign saying that she is still here around us and that she has not left.

In late July I traveled up to Montana to take my Dad to visit Butte. I wrote about the trip in “Hey Mom, we took Dad to Montana!” My sister then told me about the situation with the hummingbird. Honestly when I heard it I was puzzled. I really didn’t know what to make of the situation. I thought my sister was in grief, just like me and perhaps she was imaging things. I also thought that she could be reading too much into the situation, and didn’t want to tell her the obvious. So I just kind of said, “Okay…” and left it at that. Then on July 31 something happened which was difficult. I was angry and upset over what happened and spoke with a couple of people about the situation. My Dad and sister couldn’t believe what happened. My Dad was baffled the most. July 31 was one of those days I would have called up my Mom and say, “Can we talk?” So in Butte my Dad wanted to see a book store called Books &  Books. So I took my Dad there and as I was walking I was worried about a difficult situation. So I was looking at some books and I was standing by the window when I just had a feeling overcame me. I felt like I should look at the window. So I turned to my right and as I looked at the window I saw a hummingbird staring at me. Our eyes locked and we stared at each other. This lasted for about two minutes. I was overcome with a sense of peace, and the feeling that everything is going to be alright. Then the hummingbird left. I felt different and I understood what my sister was saying. I kept that situation to myself and didn’t say anything as I was wanting to know and understand what had just happened. About a month or so later I told my sister and she was stunned. She discussed what happened with Dad, and they both felt Mom was trying to tell me that she is still here and all will be okay.  

There have also been a couple of other things that happened. Once I was walking into a drug store and I smelled my Mom’s perfume. That took me back and stopped me in my tracks. Another thing that has also happened is an abnormal abundance of butterflies. My sister has seen more butterflies than usual. Here in D.C. I have had a couple of times where I am sitting in the car and a couple of butterflies have flown around the car almost as if they are trying to get my attention. But it continues, on my Mom’s birthday in August, I was driving in the Northern Virginia area and I was at a stop light thinking about my Mom. I looked at the flowers next to the road and I saw the biggest Monarch butterfly in my life. The wingspan might have been about 10 inches or so. I watched it and thought of my Mom. Then I realized that it was my Mom’s birthday. 

 

What a Pastor in Wisconsin Told me When I Breached this Topic with Him

Now before some people say something let me say this. I am not saying my Mom was reincarnated as a hummingbird or a butterfly. I am not saying that I am worshiping nature. This is a situation that has developed that has grabbed the family’s attention. This is something that many people have noticed. I didn’t know what to make of this situation. Would people think that I am losing my mind?  Would people think my sister is seeing things out of a state of grief? Would some think my Dad is wanting to hear from his wife in the midst of all this pain? I struggled with writing this post as I wonder how things can be perceived. I also struggled with discussing this topic with others as I wondered what would they think? After these incidents that occurred I spoke with a friend of mine who is a Pastor in Wisconsin and asked him, have you heard of situations like this after a difficult death of a loved one? 

Here’s what I learned in the conversation, and it gave me much to think about. I was told that yes, he has heard of stories like this occasionally. People may be afraid of opening up because they fear how others may perceive them. He also told me that I needed to change my thinking of heaven. Heaven is not a vault, as many people think. It is not an air tight situation where things are shut off. Heaven as this pastor described to me should be thought of as a screen door. With grace and love from heaven coming through from time to time. The fact that in my state of grief that I would be experiencing these situations, and find comfort showed the majesty of the Lord in the act of deep pain. I do know that people have seen or had powerful dreams of loved ones when they died. I heard of one the other day from someone in the D.C. area. His Mom died around the same time my Mom died. He claimed that he had a very riveting dream that caused him to wake up in the middle of the night. What happened is that his Mom came to him in his dream, and he spoke with her briefly. She was young, healthy and fine – not at all 90 with health issues when she passed away. She comforted her son and told him she is fine, she loved him and that she will see him again one day. He was told that he can live his life. This individual woke up in his bed deeply moved and felt at peace. As a Christian he believed that he had assurance that all is well. That dream experience has not happened to me. That said, who knows what will happen in the future? Its in times like this that we remember our purpose for hope. The pain is still there, and in reality will always remain. A mother’s bond with her son is deep, lifelong and permanent. And though its cut by death in the same manner it still remains. My Mom will always be my Mom and she will have a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. You cannot replace someone who is unique in such a way.

One question I have which is part of the headline of this post is the following. If the Lord is working in such a way, do many fundamentalists because of warped doctrine miss evidence of grace in their midst? Catholics do have a slight mystical element to their faith system, many evangelicals do not. Do many evangelicals, who reject lamentation miss opportunities to have periods or experiences of God hat could help heal in their grieving process? For example their own hummingbird or butterfly situation? Would that be misconstrued as someone worshiping nature instead of seeing the fact that God might be reaching out and trying to comfort? I have thought about this from time to time. After all in my life I grew up Catholic and have a Catholic family. So I am close to that line of thought as well. I hope writing about my experiences can give some of you mired in fundamentalist dogma some pause to consider the other perception. It would be awful to miss something that could help you in a long mourning process. For those of you grieving in your life, I hope this post encouraged you. We grieve together with a deep sense of loss. Yet we have hope for the future one day. That’s it for the day, please know that I love you guys! 

3 thoughts on “Because of Fundamentalism Do Evangelicals Miss Opportunities of Grace and Closure When it Comes to the Topic of Death?

  1. My great uncle Johnny was in the room with me when my oldest son was born. He stayed with me until my son was baptized a week later. Great uncle Johnny passed away in the 80’s but his presence and his prayers keep strengthening my family.

    Great post, Eagle. I don’t believe that life after death fits neatly into anyone’s dogmatic box… we have to stop trying to cram it into those boxes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eagle, long ago I concluded “Everybody has their ‘Weird Shit’ Experiences”, and these hummingbirds & butterflies are yours. Here’s what paged up in my head when I first read this post:

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  3. Eagle, while I believe that the bible clearly teaches that the dead know nothing of what’s going on here on Earth (and really, why would we want them to? And would we really want them looking in on us when we’re in the bathroom? lol), and that it also clearly teaches that there will be a resurrection, I have also seen enough to believe that the Lord does indeed provide little “touches”, via nature, via dreams, via angels, to let us know that, “It’s alright, it’s okay, all is well, he/she is fine, and you’ll be fine”, and to comfort us.

    When my sister passed away at the age of 34 at the end of January (middle of winter in NYC, about 10 degrees outside), the day after the funeral, my parents found a bird sitting just under their bed. No windows had been opened for some time, being the middle of winter. My Mom opened the window to encourage the bird out. Now, these are the kinds of birds that if you get within 10 feet of them, they’re OUT of there. Not this one. It meandered, wasn’t afraid of my Mom at all, and eventually made its way to the window sill, where it decided to remain perched for the rest of the day, despite my Mom’s “encouragement” to make it leave. It finally took off around dusk, after keeping my Mom company for most of the day, in what was now a very cold bedroom.

    Hasn’t happened before or since, and nobody knows how that bird could possibly have even gotten in there, nor why it was in no rush to leave, nor why it wasn’t afraid of anything that moves.

    It happens.

    Accept it, be thankful for it, and trust the Lord that your Mom is just fine.
    He knows.

    Blessings to you & your family as you continue to grieve & work through your mourning process.

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