Coping with Death

Sorrowing Not as Others

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."—1 Thessalonians 4:13

Testimonies of Bereavement

Sorrow and grief are natural reactions. No place are they more present than in the house of death. The Apostle Paul’s point in the theme text is not that the Christian does not sorrow but that his sorrow is softened by the hopes which he has. The three testimonies which appear below are in response to the question, "How are you coping with the pains of losing your loved one?"

Richard and Carol Tennant

Timothy J. Tennant, the son of Richard and Carol Tenant, died as a result of injuries in a car accident on April 22, 1990. Their testimony follows:

"Tim arrived at the hospital with internal bleeding and a broken leg. The doctor indicated they were going to operate to locate the bleeding and another doctor would set his leg. Much time passed and several updates of Tim’s condition were provided. During this time we phoned the class, as it was a Sunday morning, asked for their prayers, and continually prayed that the Lord’s will would be done within ourselves. When the nurse asked to speak with us alone, we were concerned but never expected to hear that Tim had passed away. We went into shock but Shelly [Tim’s sister] went into hysterics. Tim’s grandparents, Joe and Hazel Stratton, were also in shock. We were all a very close family and losing one of the members was like taking half of each of us away. Although nothing could have been more devastating or tried our faith further, we never questioned God allowing this to happen. We prayed the Lord’s will to be done and had to accept the outcome.

"When arriving home from the hospital, we found Bro. John Hummel and Bro. Dale Marzewski waiting at the door. What comfort the Metropolitan class and all the brethren were at such a difficult time. Prayers, cards, phone calls, and personal visits were not only appreciated and felt but were treasured and made life livable. Through these prayers we received much comfort, peace, and strength from our heavenly Father and dear Lord Jesus.

"The scripture in 1 Peter 4:12, ‘Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you’ became a reality. All Reprint articles on this scripture were read and became part of our rock. Additionally, the six volumes were reread and new insights and drawings to God’s plan were received. Through this trial we drew closer to God and became dependent upon him and his grace. Our love and faith for God and Jesus became a priority.

"We received the booklet, This Thing is from Me, from Nancy Hummel. This proved to be a very big blessing, as it was read many times and provided much comfort.

"Because of our memories of attending the Metropolitan Detroit class together as a family, it was far too difficult to continue to do so. Bro. Charles, Sr. Barbara Thornton and Sr. Hazel Stratton visited our home for study every Sunday. This proved to be a big blessing and was certainly part of our healing process. Additionally, starting in the fall of that year we attended the Jackson convention and several others in the years to come. In the beginning we did not expect to be able to stay an hour at our first convention but did so and returned the next day for the entire day. Through God’s grace we received many blessings from the discourses and much comfort from the brethren. We met many that indicated they had been praying for us, and we felt every one of their prayers.

"We rejoice in our heavenly Father’s beautiful plan and many scriptures have given us much peace, hope, and comfort.

"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13). This scripture gave us the strength to continue our walk, realizing God would not give us more than we could bear.

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7). We know that trials increase our faith.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). It is comforting to know our precious Tim will not go through the time of trouble.

"Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction" (Isa. 48:10). We realized that with affliction came peace.

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27). This scripture was given to Sr. Carol at her baptism and we claimed this scripture, receiving much peace."

Tom and Nancy Machacek

Jim Machacek, the son of Tom and Nancy, was a popular high school student who was killed in a tragic auto accident on December 7, 1990. The testimony of Tom and Nancy follows:

"One of the greatest privileges with which humankind has been blessed is that of becoming a parent. None of the angels possesses this capability. Although the animal kingdom living upon the earth can reproduce, that deep appreciation which a human has for life as coming forth from the Creator is absent.

"In his wisdom, the heavenly Father permits us to bring life into the world, to nurture that life, to help the little one grow not only in physical matters but also to develop the mind, especially esteeming God, his plan, and his people. Considering the number of children who have lived upon the earth, God probably values the role of parent more than we can imagine. There have been many joys for him, and many disappointments. While we as human parents experience the ups and downs of raising children, we look to our Father’s example. How did he express himself to the obedient and disobedient alike? How do we?

"With the birth of a child, the parent’s heart is full of love, thanksgiving, plans for the future. There are always the testing and skills which both the parent and child must gain—the thrills of growing from an infant into a toddler, an adolescent, a young adult. In the years ahead, that cherished newborn will become an adult and will repeat the process of raising his or her own children. And we know that until Adam’s sin no longer rests upon the human race, death will be the end of life, awaiting the resurrection.

"More often than anyone would want to know, the life cycle is interrupted. As it has been said many times, it is unnatural for a parent to outlive his or her child, or for a grandparent to survive a grandchild. Countless times throughout the world this has occurred for generations. How did Adam and Eve react to the death of Abel? His was the first human death. What a hard lesson for these two, who had known God, to experience! Theirs was the gift of life. It is death that is unnatural. How difficult it must have been for our first parents to look upon the lifeless body of their dear son. Nothing has changed since the days of Adam and Eve, and the effect on the heart with the loss of a loved one to death is the same.

"In the 1980’s we left our church. The emphasis of social responsibilities rather than the study of the word of God influenced us strongly. For a couple of years a minister served our congregation who proclaimed quite a bit of truth, as our limited understanding could comprehend. He was dismissed. Our disappointment led us to the Bible Students through a previous association with a family who are consecrated to the Lord. Although growth has been slow in the knowledge of the truth, it has been the delight of our hearts.

"We have been asked upon what did we depend in the loss of our son Jim. How did we cope? How did we manage? How did we deal with such a shock? In a word—the Lord. Everything is possible with him and nothing is possible without him.

"At the Miami Valley convention in 1990, we heard the testimony of Sr. Carol and Bro. Richard Tennant regarding the death of their dear son in April of the same year. What an effect their words had upon us! One of the most trying experiences a parent could have —and here they were, an inspiration to those listening! (The Lord wisely applies preparations for all who endeavor to serve him and to know his will).

"Jim died on December 7, 1990. He was 17 years old. It has been a little more than five and a half years since he has not been with us. The mention of time is important because as we grow in maturity, both as humans and as new creatures, the perspective changes. The one thing that has never changed is our peace, our rest, in God and his plan!

"That Friday night we knew something extremely serious occurred to Jim. His failure to telephone or to return home from a basketball game by the promised time was highly unusual, he was always dependable in these situations. We contacted the police and reported the facts. We did what we could to investigate on our own. We prayed. When the police notified us that they were coming to our house, we prayed again, sincerely desiring to accept the will of God. Finally, a police officer, who had coached Jim in tennis, arrived with a representative from the coroner’s office. It was probably more difficult for them to tell us our son was dead than it was for us to hear it because of our trust in the Lord. In the days and months which followed, we greatly appreciated the Lord’s leading, his words of comfort, the brethren. We were heart-touched that Jim’s friends continued to remember him and us. When anyone confronts such a rending situation, nothing is as it seems and the tenderness, encouragement, willingness to listen to the grieving ones are greatly valued.

"As the scripture says, the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are unseen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). There are two Manna comments which encourage us to trust God even when we cannot trace him, based on the development of our faith in him (Daily Heavenly Manna, September 4 and November 12). The prayers of the brethren were, and still are, greatly valued. Many of our associations, who do not know the Lord as we do, prayed for us. And we are thankful for their interest.

"A variety of trials followed. Some of them were not exclusively related to Jim’s death and some were. Some people had good intentions but the results were harsh for us. Looking upon those who desired to do good, but actually had the opposite effect, the eye of love could intervene and remove the sting from our hearts—although that view developed over time. During that period, we knew that, above all, we could depend on the Lord. Recently a brother stated during a discourse that even when we do not understand the reason the Lord takes us in a direction, we must have confidence in him and willingly follow. Do we practice "blind faith?" No! (Heb. 11:1, Diaglott). Would he who loves us desire anything but that which is right for us? No! (James 1:7). Are we alone in our walk? No! (Psa. 73:23-26; Isa. 43:3).

"A comment concerning character seems important. Oftentimes when someone dies, he or she is suddenly a "saint," regardless of past behavior. It is necessary to remember that our loved ones were just human. There is an encouragement which we have held close to our hearts. From various sources, throughout his life, we were repeatedly told of "that good kid." Jim had some difficulties growing up. But he learned to get along with others, to overcome the learning problems, to maintain the focus of a goal, to pursue that success of which he was capable. We shared a wonderful relationship. Jim knew that he was loved and he was a very expressive, loving son to us. While Jim did not accept the truth for himself, he was respectful for the Lord and the brethren, helpful when he saw the need, participating when asked. We miss him greatly. But we are at peace.

"The concept of time presents itself again. Since that day when we knew that something very seriously wrong had occurred, we can only say with more conviction that the Lord overruled for the good of our individual new creature. One dear sister who was very sick acknowledged before her death that she must require her trial of illness. What an example for us! Well, we must have needed this trial and all the events which it introduced into our lives. In the future, how can all humanity be developed in the kingdom of righteousness except by a sympathetic priesthood? How did our Lord, our head, look upon the masses of people who came to him? He came to serve the will of God and his vitality went out from him (Isa. 53:4; Luke 6:19; The Divine Plan of the Ages, p. 230). Did the heavenly Father abandon mankind to the despair of sin and death? In his wisdom, justice, love, and power, the Creator prepared a means to bring the race out of this state of degradation, to restore what was lost in Adam’s fall. The cost of the sacrifice of the life—the death—of his beloved son. The process by which God’s plan is achieving its fulfillment has taken over 6000 years for mankind. What have we to gain in the few years, perhaps decades, of consecrated life under the tutelage of the Master? Eternal life! (Titus 3:1-7).

"During the last few months, two other dear young people we have known have died. Their parents walk with the Lord. There is much that is tucked away in memory which was revived with their deaths. It is not our immediate experience, but we are joined with them in theirs. While we know that our loved ones are asleep in death until they awaken in the resurrection, which is a comfort, how do the parents address each day when their hearts are breaking? Our hearts break with theirs. We know the coldness of the mask of death upon our loved ones. But now we know what it is to lack the words to ease their deep distress. Others reached out to console us in our loss. We should have an understanding better than others who have not lost a child of the proper words and encouragement. This experience is perhaps guiding us out of self and toward service for the Lord. We needed this one, too.

"Let us never undervalue the power of prayer. It is an exercise which keeps us in contact with the Lord at all times. We received some of the most wonderful assistance from the brethren through the unity of the spirit. Praying for, serving the brethren, is our privilege: it is as if serving our Lord! While none of us know what tomorrow will bring, we are confident that the Lord will be with us. Life under the Adamic curse is not really life as it was intended to be by the Creator of the universe. Let us persevere, fulfilling our consecration vows, knowing that the "day" will surely revive our loved ones and all mankind from the dead in the blessed mediatorial kingdom and, if faithful, to truly live throughout the ages to come."

A. Hazel McClellan

Bro. Robert McClellan collapsed and died suddenly at the school where he was a teacher. The following testimony is from his widow, Sr. A. Hazel McClellan.

"How do I cope with widowhood?

"I start the morning with the Morning Resolve.


To follow where an unseen Captain leads,
To heed commands unheard by mortal ear,
To battle with a known, yet unseen, foe—
Ah! This Faith.

To fix your eyes on that "within the veil,"
Your heart’s devotion set on things above,
To wait with patience until God calls you home—
Faith’s victory won!

Psalms 91:4, "Under his wings I take refuge," and verses 11, 12, and 15 are a comfort and a solace to me.

"Letters to write and to answer, studies to meditate upon—both personal and with brethren (Heb. 10:25)—are a big help. I have been able to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life. There have been letters—especially from widows like myself—in which I have both received and given encouragement. By attending as many conventions as I can lay up savings for and both by driving my own car (picking up others with the same goal in Christ) and flying with a group of brethren to such places as the International Convention, Israel, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt has given me the accompaniment of saints.

"Tracting has been my joy; to dispense the truth upon whomever that witness falls. I look forward to join with other brethren at fair booths when the occasion arises. I make individual telephone calls to help the younger babes in the truth. These encourage me to use the redeemed time more profitably for the Lord.

"I appreciate the home where I have been allowed to remain. Here I have physical responsibilities, such as attending a small garden out back which supports my table. Having the dear brethren in my home, to provide nourishment and rest for the evenings when conventions arise, and then having their warm hospitality of heart to share with me while we talk by the fireside—in all of these ways the Lord has been so good to me!

"Yet all that I have said above does not annul the flesh that I live in (this old clay pot) from having feelings of deeply missing the one who sat in that front room arm chair resting his weary eyes, worn down by teaching all day. His loving, caring, smiling face, and his arms which held me in their nest each day, have been sincerely missed and I long to meet him on the other side. The anchor I am attached to beyond the veil, has been tugging at my heart, longing to meet him once more, but in that promised new immortal nature above."