loss Archives - Chaplain | JM Faith at Work

You Have a Right to Your Disappointment

By | Blog

Pastor Jim Melvin

All around me I hear people voicing their disappointments and sense of loss due to the sacrifices we are being required to make because of the coronavirus outbreak. The disappointments are large and small. People are disappointed because they won’t be able to watch March Madness or the Masters Golf Tournament this year. Millions of high school and college seniors will miss the experience of walking across a stage to receive their diplomas. On a more personal level, the thirty eager people who I intended to lead on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land will be deprived of the trip of a lifetime.

My daughter recently had a research trip to Mexico canceled, her master’s degree presentation held virtually, and will likely have her graduation canceled. Of course, she is disappointed. Some have attempted to minimize her disappointment because, after all, she’s traveled widely and has enjoyed graduation ceremonies from high school, college and law school. That kind of thinking misses the point. We each have a right to our own disappointments. Your disappointment, no matter how large or small, does not compete with my disappointment or anybody else’s.

I think it would be healthy for us each to get in touch with our own disappointments. Name them. Own them. Then we can mourn them and move on. Also, getting in touch with our own disappointments can make us more sensitive to those of other people. Just as we name our own disappointments, we can encourage others to name theirs. Then we can mourn, encourage one another, and move forward together.

We may be able to find some more modest ways that we can partially compensate for our losses. We can hold smaller more intimate celebrations of our graduate’s accomplishments. We can start to dream of a new trip next year. But it’s not the same.

There will be time for expressing gratitude for our many blessings and hope for the future later. But for right now, I officially give you permission to be sad. I give you permission to bawl your eyes out and bury your head in the pillow. Your grieving is real; and nobody has the right to take it from you.

How to Celebrate a Life

By | Blog

Pastor Jim Melvin

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!”
Psalm 98:4

I was recently asked to lead a “Celebration of Life” service for my wife’s aunt, something that I always feel privileged to do. This was the type of service that her aunt specifically requested. As I was speaking with the family, we started asking exactly what a “Celebration of Life” entails. After a few days of reflection, here is what I have come up with on how to celebrate a life.


The first thing we must do is get together. You can’t really celebrate by email, text, or telephone. Family and friends have to get together in the same place, preferably a place that holds some significance to the person being honored. Sometimes it has to be a place of convenience accessible to the most people – and that’s ok too.

I learned the power of family gatherings through my wife’s family. Coming from a small family, we didn’t get together as a group much. But my wife had 15 aunts and uncles and a bazillion cousins, so family reunions were major events. As the aunts and uncles have passed away over the years (there is only one left in my wife’s family) the reunions mostly occur when someone dies. The first thing we say when we guiltily greet each other is “We only see each other at weddings and funerals.” That statement reinforces the importance of gathering.


It says in the Book of Proverbs, “The memory of the righteous is a blessing.” You can substitute “the ones we love” for “the righteous” if you like. Remembering allows the person we have lost to be present with us. I’ve heard of people who have their celebration of life ceremonies before they die so that they can attend. Not necessary. When we remember, we summon their presence.

One thing that I have found about remembering is that it needs to be honest. It is important to remember the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. Sugarcoating a person’s life or character in a way dishonor’s them. To truly celebrate a life, we should remember them as they were, not as we wish they were. When we remember somebody in the full context, warts and all, it opens the possibility for healing where it is necessary, and a true appreciation of what has been lost. By the way, when you remember me, don’t be TOO honest.


This is a celebration, right? So, party on. The Bible, the Psalms in particular, are full of partying. Psalm 98:4 sings, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” When the prodigal son returned the father said, “ʽBring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So, they began to celebrate.” And when Jesus attended the wedding at Cana in Galilee, they ran out of wine and so they asked Jesus to come up with180 gallons more. Tell me that wasn’t a real party.

Seriously, the party, the eating and drinking together (it doesn’t have to be alcohol) are an essential part of healing. The beginning of the banquet signals that it is time for life to move on and for happiness to enter into life again. In my midwestern Lutheran experience nothing says healing more than a hot dish and bars.


My final step for celebrating the life of someone we love is to throw ourselves back into life again. We honor their life by going out and leading the kind of life that they would be proud of. We are the ones who now have the opportunity to create a living legacy for the one who has gone before us. That applies not only to our parents and older relatives, but also to our friends for whom the opportunity to make a direct difference in the world has been closed.