in memory: not grief, but gratitude

What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. – 1 Corinthians 15:42-49

Derek and Geoff, 1962

TIME: Sometimes the years seem to fly by as if all of life is just a series of fleeting moments; at others time stands almost completely still, hanging in a kind of suspension, barely edging forward at all.

As spiritual beings we understand that time can never be adequately measured as an even, constant, linear stream of incremental, predictably spaced ticks.

Even though we know that the movement of the minute hand on a watch is equivalent to a fixed interval calculated relative to the rotation of the earth on its axis, that a year represents our progression around the Sun, and that one atomic second equals the specific interval of time taken to complete 9,192,631,770 oscillations of the Cesium 133 atom, we still understand that there is so much more at play than physics and mathematics.

We know that a lifetime with someone you love is nowhere near enough, and we understand that one minute of suffering for that same person is an unacceptably long eternity. We hold these unequal definitions of the behavior of time as experiential realities, yet we live in a physical world where our day-by-day is organized according to the rigid movement of a digital clock.

March 8, 2012

MARCH 12, 2012: According to our calendar, it was three years ago today that my brother, Geoff, passed from the limitations of this life and into the completeness of eternity. To those of us who love him, it was barely yesterday.

We seem to move freely between the measurable realities of this corporeal experience and the eternal principles that govern the universe of spirit, and yet – sometimes – the two truths grate against each other in a way that leaves us yearning, impatient, uncomprehending, and a little broken.

Memory can become a fresh experience of pain… and pain can engage the comfort of spiritual presence… and spiritual presence can strengthen our knowledge that the reality of life is a much deeper, more complete, and permanent truth than the parameters that we experience as time and space.

GRATEFUL: So today holds a poignant tenderness for me, it always will. I miss my brother. Geoff was my only sibling, and the last few years of his life we had been able to recalibrate our relationship and grow into a deeper appreciation of – and mutual respect for – one-another.

But I am not grieving. Instead, I feel a mixture of thankfulness for his life, appreciation for his legacy, and anticipation for the way God will continue to blend chronos and kairos and eternity; because there is no limitation, no dimension, and no oscillation of a cesium atom that can hem in the promise of the Kingdom.

Derek, Grace, Geoff, and David, 1956
Derek, Grace, Geoff, and David, 1956

So, as Rebekah so eloquently prompted us to consider in Sunday morning’s message at WFPC, the answer to the question, “How are you doing today?” is this confident, heartfelt word: “GRATEFUL!”


  1. Beautiful column Derek. I lost my mom two years ago and still evolving and processing but grateful is mostly where I am too. Thanks for your daily boost of encouragement and stimulation.


  2. Thanks, Carl. Good to hear from you.
    I am blessed to have both my parents still, and living next door! Rebekah still misses her mama every day, and it’s been 15 years! The passage between life and death is mysterious and beautiful – and at the same time it makes the idea of eternity so real.
    Peace to both of you – DEREK


  3. What a wonderful family picture Derek. I am so touched by your message today and am always praying that our eternal God helps us continually when we face human hardships and grief. I love you brother in Christ!


  4. I appreciate your message today. I, too, lost a brother and all I can remember are good times shared with him. I can honestly say that we never had so much as one disagreement that I can remember. He was my best friend and I miss him…but I, too, am not grieving 😃


  5. Just thought I would share with you that, with appropriate credit and editing, I used your “not grief, but gratitude” blog in a letter to the widow of good friend who died Monday. Good stuff. I wanted her to know that I am grateful that Mike was my friend.


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