But death has separated Scary Grandpa from his adoring great-grandchildren and the rest of his family. As we have talked about the reality of death with our children, we constantly face the seeming scariness of it. The finality, the pain, the sadness, the frailty of a dying man's body – it’s a perfect recipe for the creation of fear. We FaceTimed with Scary Grandpa for the final time a mere six days ago as he lay in his bed. Although he had not spoken since the day before, he began moving his lips and making noises when he heard Elin's sweet voice saying "Boo,Grandpa!" and "I love you, Scary Grandpa!" He heard our daughter and loved her, just as he had loved us all so well. After we hung up the video call, Elin admitted she was scared of dying.
While death is a curse and contains nothing good in and of itself, for the Christian it is really just a façade - just like Grandpa's nickname to our children. God himself has endured death for us so that what should be our end – an eternal separation from all that is love – is really just the beginning of true life. Throughout our lives we have all chosen sin, the root of which is selfishness and pride, and the consequence of which is relational separation. We have willed that we be the center of the universe and we have cut off our relationship with God and others. That is a scary way to live. But our loving God has ensured that those who seek the death of this selfishness and pride in themselves will find it nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ, through the most unselfish and humble act in all of history. God himself has taken those who are hopelessly broken and has begun to restore them by his love. He left His heavenly throne and lived among us and conquered death in our place. So when the Christian faces death, we can embrace it not for its own sake, but for the sake of what we know lies behind the veil - true life in a world where all relationships are restored and made perfect.
As we continue to teach Elin and Atticus about death, we constantly remind them and ourselves that death isn’t something about which we should be scared. We know our God of love, and perfect love casts out fear. Just as grandpa’s scary façade had great love behind it, so lies true life for the Christian behind death’s door. But while fear is not a word that should be in our repertoire, until the restoration of all things we may find that we live with sorrow, as we do here today when remembering Scary Grandpa. For where there is love that is lost, how could we not mourn? We Christians, however, do not mourn as those who have no hope, for we have a Savior who has risen from the dead, our guarantee that we will one day do the same and be reunited with our God of love and with those whom we love. We are a fortunate family, as we knowGrandpa has placed his trust in our God of love, to which his words and the fruit of his sacrificial life can attest. But while we mourn, we can explain to our children what was so obviously preeminent in Norman Johnson's life. More than anything else we may remember about him - his laugh, his good-hearted mischief, his love for his wife and his family - we are absolutely certain that Scary Grandpa loved Jesus. And we know that he would want his life to be most remembered by this love and would hope for all others to know this love, too. So as we comforted Elin, we were able to confidently tell her, "It is sad when people die, but it doesn't have to be scary. Scary Grandpa isn't scared because he has been reunited with Grandma Johnson and Jesus."
We know that because our Savior has risen, so too will our grandpa. Scary Grandpa has now tasted more fully of this restoration in which we hope – this reunion. He finally sees grandma as she was always meant to be, and he finally sees his Creator face to face.