When I was little, maybe 6 or so, my great-grandfather passed away. It was sad, but being so young I didn’t really understand anything except that my great-grandfather was now in heaven. It was the first funeral I remember attending, and when we got there I heard someone ask my parents if they wanted to go see my great-grandfather. I was confused, because my parents had just told me all about how he was in heaven – what was he doing at the funeral home??
I asked my brother what he thought, but since he was four he didn’t have a ton of insight to offer. Then I asked my dad. He took us over to see my great-grandfather in the casket so we could see that he was there. I remember asking about the American flag draped over the coffin, and my dad explaining that it was to honor my great-grandfather’s service in World War II. We asked my dad a few more questions, and finally we asked how Papaw Ward could be here and in heaven at the same time.
My dad taught me what I now know is an invaluable lesson: He took my hand in his and very lightly pinched the skin on the back of my hand, and said, “This is Papaw Ward’s outside, just like your skin. The best part of him is in heaven now. We can still see him, but he’s with Jesus. It’s just skin.”
I know that sounds a little weird, but I have never forgotten that moment. And it’s because it always brings me back to that lesson: It’s just skin. We’re here in this world to glorify our Creator, and when someone we love leaves this world, we don’t have to be sad, because the best part of them is with Jesus now. I lost a good friend to cancer earlier this year, and at his funeral I again went back to that moment with my dad. My friend is in heaven now, and even though it’s sad, it’s also okay, because that’s where we’re all supposed to be anyway.
Even in sad times, that memory of my dad at my great-grandfather’s funeral continues to teach me and comfort me. It reminds me that as great as I find this life here, it’s nothing compared to Glory – it’s just skin.
Thanks for teaching me, Dad.