When Bygones Refuse To Be Bygones
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
We often get questions from sisters in faith who are struggling with a particular dilemma and don’t know how to handle it from a biblical perspective. One question we prayerfully answered a while back is a problematic scene that arises in this day and age with separated, divorced, split or estranged families. The question: how do you handle a funeral if there is someone who is a “difficult” loved one, or who is not welcome at the funeral or memorial?
Losing a loved one can be such a painful time for families and friends. Having so many different emotions with losing someone they hold dear, tempers may sometimes flair without intention. Most people will feel that powerfully strong need to say a “final farewell,” and yet it can be complicated by emotions of individuals or by past difficulties that have yet to be worked out.
Sadly, the loss of a loved often reminds us that life here on earth is short, and that Yahweh’s teachings should become more a part of our lives. This is often the time where many suddenly recognize they want to find ways to “let bygones be bygones.” It may become a time for some to earnestly try to put the past behind them. There are some families, though, struggling with moving on and it is just not possible to settle things because some are not ready to let go of past offenses. There are other times when it is just that the memorial or funeral is not the optimal place to address the problem because one or more of the parties involved is not ready yet to let go of hurt, anger or bitterness.
Whatever the reason, how do you accommodate as many people as possible in the mourning process, while attempting to keep the peace?
We have a simple suggestion from personal experience that may help.
My own family struggled with this when we lost a loved one who had a falling out decades before with one of his sisters. When he passed away, this estranged sister was devastated that they had never forgiven each other. She so wanted just a few moments to say goodbye to her brother, and to ask forgiveness of those who were willing to listen. Sadly, most of the family was too bitter and angry, hanging onto the past “sins” and offenses, and was unwilling to listen to her plea.
She was elderly, and I had offered, as did my oldest children, to go to the funeral home the day before the memorial to allow her private time to say her goodbyes. I have to say, she and I had not seen each other in decades and had no relationship. Plus, socially, we had different personalities, and we traveled in different circles. If we were to meet somewhere and strike up conversation, she is not someone I would have chosen to draw into my personal circle of friends. Yet she was family, and to me, God’s principles were more important here. Forgiveness needed to be allowed.
What I did not intend to happen played out angrily, though, as my attempts to do what was right caused so much drama with other family members. My suggestions of allowing her to have some personal time before the large memorial were not well received, there was some screaming and yelling, and it was forbidden for me to allow her to say her goodbyes. I was taken aback, because I believed it had been long enough and forgiveness was needed - on all sides. She actually seemed to be the only one willing to move forward, the only one willing to ask for forgiveness.
She was a great example to me, and I willingly forgave her on behalf of my family, even though they are still angry to this day. In the end, being forbidden to see her brother to say goodbye it caused her so very much unnecessary pain for years to come. She died years later, still hurting that she had never been granted forgiveness by the rest of family here on earth.
Death is so complicated for some, which is sad because life is challenging enough. It is troublesome when people allow death to bring out such bitterness from within us when we have the capability of being so much better than that. I sometimes wonder how her heart would have healed had she been given that moment to say goodbye and that simple act of loving kindness.
When faced with a similar situation, I pray you may recall some of our experience and that it will help you. Being that you are the believer in Yeshua, and the follower of His teachings, may you remember to ask yourself what you can do to facilitate the best possible situation for the most people.
Is there a way that those who do not get along may be allowed to visit the funeral home BEFORE the rest of the family and friends? Maybe you could reach out to those involved and talk about what might be best for THE ENTIRE FAMILY. For the estranged family member(s), schedule a time when others will not be there. Involve the funeral director in this process - they have worked through things like this before. They may even have more suggestions to help smooth things over in the family. They can also help should a situation of drama crop up, which may honestly happen. If necessary, the employees at the funeral home can have people cordoned off to an office area or even removed, if necessary.
During the process of mourning, we could all take heart to listen to the words in Colossians 3:1-15.
Blessings and Shalom.
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When Bygones Refuse to be Bygones
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
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