Meet Melissa (Mel) Scallan, one of my dearest friends. She’s a newspaper reporter, a football fanatic and a “YaYa”. Melissa, Beth, Tami and I are all “YaYa” to each other. You know, friends to the end who have and will be there for all of life’s celebrations and tragedies. We discovered this name in the movie, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, and claimed it.
Tragedy struck again when Mel’s niece, Kristin Leonard, was recently killed. I asked Melissa to share the story of her sweet and sparky Kristin with me and you. Death is hard. This one has been down right horrific. But we can learn from it. God uses it to show himself, and draw us to him, to inspire us to live. I hope Kristin’s story does all of those for you.
I wracked my brain for days trying to remember the day my niece Kristin was born. Finally, driving down the road recently, I remembered. It was March 9, 1981, and my mother called my junior high school to tell me that my sister and brother-in-law had a baby girl.
I cried tears of happiness that day because I welcomed my godchild into this world.
You see, it was important for me to remember that day because I certainly won’t ever forget the day she died – July 22, 2010 – a life so full of promise cut short, not by God’s hand, but by someone else’s.
Kristin was a determined, focused child almost from the day she was born. She always made good grades and seemed to know from elementary school that she wanted to be a nurse.
She graduated from nursing school at Southeastern Louisiana University in December 2004. It was very cold that day, and I could tell she was nervous, which was unlike Kristin. She always was so sure of herself and her decisions. Not that she wasn’t this time, but after being in school since age 5, she was about to embark on her career.
And in usual Kristin fashion, she immediately began planning her next career move. She worked in the burn unit for awhile in Baton Rouge, as well as in intensive care, receiving her critical care nursing certificate.
Kristin was passionate about everything – she didn’t do anything halfway. Whether she was caring for a patient or one of her beloved animals, she gave it her all. She was opinionated and fiery and didn’t mind telling anybody what she thought -whether or not they asked. And I don’t ever remember her apologizing for the way she felt.
She loved animals almost more than people and had a variety of cats and even mice – she saved a mouse once from being fed to a snake and took it to the vet when she claimed “Mickey” wasn’t eating. She loved others’ pets as much as her own, giving all the family dogs plenty of hugs and kisses.
One of the things I’ll remember most is her laugh – more of a giggle – but so infectious. Those who know her always will remember that laugh.
When it came to family and friends, she had a soft spot and would do anything for them. In a small way, it was that generosity that took her from us so soon. Kristin moved to Shreveport, La. In the summer of 2007 to be with her boyfriend, who had been accepted at LSU Medical School.
She loved Shreveport and made many friends there, so when her and her boyfriend broke up in the summer of 2009, Kristin stayed in Shreveport. She decided to further her career by applying for the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Program at Texas Wesleyan University. The panel was so impressed that they told her she was accepted at her interview – which is highly unusual.
That was in February of this year, and she immediately began making preparing – studying, taking online courses and of course, saving her money since she wouldn’t be able to work for more than two years. She talked to me about it and said the thought of being without a job for that long scared her. I told her to think of it as an investment. “It’s an investment I’ll have to pay back,” she quipped.
About that time, Kristin began rediscovering her Catholic faith, reading the Bible every day and brushing up on Catholicism. She said it was because she worked at a Catholic hospital, Christus Schumpert, and got questions often about why Catholics do and believe certain things.
I believed her, but I also think God was preparing her for what was to come. She wrote on Facebook the week that she died that she couldn’t believe she only had a few more shifts at the hospital. That was truer than we could have imagined.
It was on that hot July day that the person Kristin had moved away from her family and friends for decided she would no longer be here with us. I don’t think she suffered; I certainly hope not.
I cried tears of sadness that day and for most days since because of the hole that’s been left in all of our lives.
I know she would tell us to move on, to pursue our hopes and dreams like she did. And to be kind to the animals – always be kind to the animals.
I also know she is with God and our other family members who have passed on, but it doesn’t make it easier to deal with the loss. But we will move on, Little Bit, because it’s what you would want, and we will become stronger because of what you have taught us.
Kristin touched the life of everyone she met, and I think we are all better people for knowing her.
Dealing with Death of a Loved One
Dealing with the death of a loved one can be the hardest thing anyone has ever gone through. Whether they are strong in their faith, or haven’t had much faith in quite some time, there is never an easy way to deal with the loss of a friend or loved one. To offer a Christian perspective on this issue, we can only look to Christ and His Word for reassurance and encouragement when facing such loss. While we mourn the earthly loss of our loved one, we must remember the promises that the Lord gave us in the Bible. In fact, salvation is spoken of throughout the whole Bible, and heaven is something that is so worth our devoted time in study.
In our worst moments of suffering, we must place our focus on learning the reality of what heaven really is. It says in the Bible,
Revelation 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
We have to keep in mind that if our loved one is in heaven, what they are seeing is far beyond what we could possibly imagine. The splendor and the beauty of heaven is not possibly fathomable in the human mind. Take a very close look at the following Scriptures, pay very close attention, and see if you can even come close creating a visual in your mind of the awesomeness and magnificence of our future home of heaven:
Revelation 21:10-27 (New Revised Standard Version)
“And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15 The angel who talked to me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width; and he measured the city with his rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, one hundred forty-four cubits by human measurement, which the angel was using. 18 The wall is built of jasper, while the city is pure gold, clear as glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city are adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass. 22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
There is no question of the sadness, despair, loneliness, devastation, and sometimes even anger or guilt that we feel when mourning a death. But, take a moment to think about this. If all that the Bible says is true, and Christ has the power to resurrect the dead, raising them to holy Jerusalem, then what our loved ones are seeing now is far more exquisite and breathtaking then words can express. If the Bible is correct and Jesus is to keep His promises, then we surely will have the ability to see our loved ones again. It may not be tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year, but we have a guarantee in the Lord that He will reunite us with those that have gone before us, in the majestic place called heaven. We too, have something to look forward to, which may not be apparent in the midst of our grieving, but it is a promise given by our Lord and Savior that we can obtain salvation, meet Him face to face, and even build houses and dwell in them for eternity with all whom we have lost in the past. Just imagine it. If you could take a moment to absorb this, and truly let it sink into your heart, keeping your faith in the promises of Christ, it may be some consolation to know that your faith will bring you to this miraculous paradise. For this is possibly one of the most difficult times you have faced, and you should know that the Lord is with you each step of the way through your affliction and pain. Focus your heart on what is beyond this earth, for those who remain loyal to the Savior.
Speak to the Lord and put your faith in Him knowing that He will carry you through, and that there is hope that travels far beyond what you could possibly fathom at this moment. Even through the midst of your sadness, the Lord promises to walk with you, and not give you any more pain than you can endure. Be of good faith, my friend. The Lord sees your tears, and He knows of your suffering, and this is a time when He will draw close to you to ease your heavy heart.
May God’s grace, comfort, and healing be with you in this most difficult time. May His Holy Spirit wrap you in His loving care, and allow you to rest your tired heart and mind with the peace of knowing that your loved one is with Him in heavenly glory at this moment.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Dealing With Death
by Amit Sodha
The debate about what happens after death will continue well into this century but I have no doubt that one day soon we will have, not just the technology, but the ability to know and go beyond at will.
My personal views aside, I believe there is way too much evidence, of the afterlife, for non-believers to try and dismiss altogether.
I wanted to share a little bit about what I have experienced around dealing with death, my personal beliefs, some additional challenges you can expect and how to overcome them.
Also, how to cope with the loss and most importantly how you can turn the tragedy into something more than just a painful experience. I would go as far as to say it can be a blessing rather than a curse.
Earlier this month my sister, Sheila, passed away. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 years ago but opted not to have conventional treatment. She chose to take alternative forms of treatment but didn’t always follow through with them.
In the last 8 weeks of her life, my sister couldn’t eat and in the last 3 weeks or so, should could barely hold down liquids. She passed away at hospital while my father was with her which was appropriate as he spent the last four weeks caring for her full time.
I consider myself very lucky in many ways as, a month or so earlier, I was with John Demartini at his ‘Breakthrough Experience’ weekend in London and we conducted a process called the ‘Quantum Collapse’. We were asked to select a person that had pushed our buttons or challenged us in some form and chose that person for the task. My sister had indeed pushed my buttons, and I hers, but none the less we had a lot of love for each other and a good understanding of the others needs. The process enabled me to feel more gratitude and love for my sister and in many ways I feel the reason that I have been able to let go much easier.
It was even more so the case because a few months prior to her passing, I was at her house in the morning before work, and we ended up having a heated argument. I remember I called into work that day to let them know that I wouldn’t be in and Sheila and I continued our discussion. It was because of that day that we both gained a greater understanding and appreciation of each other. It all ended with smiles and laughter. As far as people go Sheila and I were both totally different individuals; like chalk and cheese you might go as far to say.
Death & Beliefs
Most importantly for me I don’t believe in death. I only believe in death so far as the body becoming a corpse but the soul continuing its journey. Technically even the body doesn’t die. The matter and energy remain constant but changes it’s form or presentation. The ashes are still billions of atoms that were once the vehicle for my sister.
Isn’t is amazing how when we’re born, we’re approximately 9lbs in weight. When We’re cremated, our ashes are about 9lbs in weight.
The body itself, whilst alive, is constantly changing. You are not the same person you were two years ago. You are 100% brand new! Every atom and every cell has changed and the thing the maintains the memories and persona is the soul. Even though deep down I know all this to be true when the death first occurs you cannot help but feel saddened, grief and shed a few tears.
When it happened I was unaware as I was driving to the hospital. As I walked into the room I asked my dad how she was and that’s when he told me that she had passed away. Naturally there was the initial shock to deal with and so my dad and I sat with her for a couple of hours before her body was taken away. For a small portion of that time I decided to keep myself occupied so I started to call the family and inform them of what had happened.
Later that evening my family and I had the chance to all go and see the body together in the morgue; that was important as it allowed us all to grieve together. Over the course of the next few days I had to take various family members to the morgue and so I spent a lot of time with the body. I considered this a blessing as it allowed me to almost become immune to the emotional effects of seeing the body.
Towards the end just before she passed away she did look very ill but after passing away her body looked incredibly peaceful so that was another reason I didn’t feel the effects as much. She did have a large lump on her forehead crossing over into her scalp but after she passed that lump seemed to disappear.
When looking at a dead body you can’t help but feel that any second the person in front of you is going to wake up. Another thing that people often notice or observe is that the body appears to breathe. That is not the first time I’ve seen that on a dead body.
My parents are Hindu and so we observed the Hindu tradition of doing the 13 days of prayer. Every evening family would gather and we would sing Hindu prayer hymns. The purpose of the prayers is to give the soul a peaceful passing. During the day of the funeral we had an open casket and the priest who came did a traditional Hindu ceremony. My brothers and I adorned her body with little bits of blessed food, flowers and new clothes and then after which the body was cremated.
We also decided to dedicate a song to her so we chose a song called ‘Joy’ by Blackstreet and Marvin Gaye. I remember on the day that my sister passed away I was driving to the studio to do my radio show as normal and I heard that song on the radio which I hadn’t heard in years. I just thought “what a beautiful song; I’ve got to get my hands on a copy”. A few days later I found that song on Sheila’s phone; it was one of only a handful of songs on her phone and it just seemed perfect to dedicate to her. If you are ever in this situation you may also experience certain synchronicities that occur. Call them accidents, call them coincidences; I can assure you they are much more than just that.
The Effects Of Death
Initially dealing with death can bring people closer together but just as quickly it can also drive a wedge between people; something I’ve seen first hand. The beauty of death is that is can remind you to live. Death will initially increase the value of life and will often get people to re-evaluate life. It’s a time when you will feel like making some sharp decisions about life. It’s good to act quickly to follow through since the sense of urgency will be fresh in your mind.
If we could remember those thoughts and feelings throughout our lives, about how short life is, then think of where your life would be today? How would your life be different? How would you treat people differently knowing that tomorrow they might not even be there? Suddenly you start to appreciate those around you more. You start to feel grateful for what is already in your life rather than thinking about what more you could have.
After my sister passed away, my two closest friends, on separate occasions both said the same thing to me: They both said: “A death of a close relative will always reveal peoples true colours.” They weren’t wrong! You would think that a death would bring out the sympathetic side of people but I’ve seen it bring out the most selfish side in people you will ever see. It will add to the challenge of dealing with the grief and all you can do is handle it honestly.
There is no point in holding back your opinion especially if it’s just to pacify people. Speak your mind and let people know why. Once it is said and done go within and offer your gratitude to those people for helping you to grow. That is their sole purpose. Revealing to you a side of yourself you have yet to love. It of course flows both ways but they might not know that. You cannot control the reaction of others, only you can choose how you deal with the way others react.
Over time thoughts will come into you mind and you will realise there are things to deal with. The big thing of course is money. Any time the subject of money comes along again I believe it also reveals the true colours of any individual. If you were especially close to the person then dealing with any estates and money can bring fourth guilt and that is completely natural. If anything, if you feel guilt, it is a testament to your character. However you feel, know that you are just doing what needs to be done.
Dreams and memories are another big thing that will be a big impact on you over the grieving period. I said to someone recently that the purpose of us having the ability to let our memories fade is so that the pain eases. If we had perfect recall then we would always experience the pain.
No one likes to admit that they are forgetting the person or that the pain is easing but it will as your habit of recalling those memories will lessen. Having a strong focus and purpose in life will naturally also be of benefit to you and will assist the process of knowing any tradegy, no matter how great can also bring with it and equally powerful blessing. I know that this point will be a tough pill for most people to swallow but all you need to do is look for them.
I don’t just believe, I know that although you will no longer be with your loved one physically, they will continue their journey and you will always be connected with them spiritually. Just last night my mother saw an apparition of Sheila and I had a dream about her. That connection is something that is intangible and can never be broken.
What Death Can Mean For You
Ultimately we are all connected but naturally you will feel an affinity to those who you’ve shared a journey and I believe that sharing having a much deeper purpose. You shared a journey with that soul for a reason and it is for that reason that you will be reunited with them in some form or fashion in the future.
Above all there is one key message here I wish to share with people. I want you to know that death is something we must all face whether that be as a participant or a witness to. Know that it is on it’s way and live your life accordingly. Prepare for it, for it is less likely to come unexpectedly to those who know it is never far away.
Those who truly understand death will be the kind of people who live according to that dharma and shine as a result. They will act as if there is no tomorrow and will live life passionately and purposefully without taking it too seriously. So be grateful for the present moment as it is the only true fragment of time by which we can live and act.
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Prayers for the Dying – Overcoming the Fear
Are you intimidated to offer prayers for the dying? Death is close at hand and you are there to bring comfort. Can you do it? Do you know how? The very fear you have and the grief you feel is also in the heart and mind of the one who is facing death. Don’t fight that, but embrace it and share it. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” As you mourn with someone who is dying or with someone who’s experiencing the death of someone close to them — you give them comfort, you uplift, you are blessed because you are blessing someone else, and you too will experience comfort.
Prayers for the Dying – Clinging to Life
As you offer prayers for the dying, you may see a struggle in their spirit to live. The health of our spirit is interestingly tied to our struggle to cling to life. The sick and the weak, those with little left to hang onto in the physical realm; will still cling to their life when their spirit is strong. Fighting a fight that seems like a losing battle; the dying will take any kind of quality of life that is offered them.
What are they truly clinging to? What is life? Jesus said He is life (John 14:6); He gives life abundantly or to the full (John 10:10); He said that His words are spirit and they are life and that the flesh is of no avail (John 6:63); and He promises that all who believe in Him have eternal life (John 6:47). The life that we truly cling to and struggle to have is found in Jesus right now; and is fulfilled just beyond the horror of death.
Death comes when the struggle to cling to the flesh gives way. The dying will come to accept the journey that their spirit needs to take. And Jesus knows that journey. He went through it. He conquered it for you and for me (John 11:25). Jesus alone is the judge of who inherits eternal life. So leave it in His loving, righteous, gracious, and worthy hands.
Prayers for the Dying – Offering Hope
There is hope and good news that you can offer in your prayers for the dying. The good news is that death is now swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). We have hope because of Jesus! The return of Jesus to gather His people to Himself and the promise of eternal life is our hope. The Bible often reminds us of how we should long for its coming and cling to its promise to keep us going when life is difficult. For the believer, death is the gateway into the promise of eternal life as we shed our earthly bodies to enter into the presence of God (1 Corinthians 15:50-53).
”Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9, ESV)
Offer this hope to the dying so they can find peace. Jesus will meet them right in their moment of death just as He did the thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43. Our faith comes up against the fear of death and brings comfort and even joy.
”May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).
Prayers for the Dying – A Prayer
Dear Heavenly Father, With heavy hearts we come to You. You are Almighty Creator God; holy and full of grace and love. Our hearts are heavy because of a life that is leaving us. Death engulfs us Lord. Fear is waiting to take us down. Thank You Father, that because of Jesus, You know our pain and sorrow intimately. Thank You that Jesus knows the way through this dark shadow. Take the hand of our dear sister/brother and make Yourself known. Guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Keep that which is Your own and take it into eternity to be with You. In Jesus, death is but a shadow. Jesus has swallowed up its sorrows and pain. Thank You Jesus for the cross. Thank You Jesus for the resurrection. Lord, we are before You, confessing that You are Lord of all; the gate keeper to eternal life. Your grace and love abound even as our sin seems ever increasing. Take our hands Lord and lead us through. We lay our fears at your feet. Your promise is that You — and You alone — will come to take us home. As it says in Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (ESV).
Thank you for the comfort we find in Your presence. Through the Holy Spirit we know Your presence is with us. Send us Your peace Lord; the peace that passes all understanding. Don’t let us waiver and doubt. Give us a faith that is everlasting. We release our lives into Your hands. As we wait and watch, we know Lord that none of us will escape this journey through death. Teach us how to embrace it with faith. Give us strength to hold up those who are stepping closer to seeing You face to face. Take away the fear in the heart of our loved one who will soon see You; let them find peace in Your grace, comfort in Your love, and strength in Your mighty power over death. Comfort us as our grief seems to over power us.
You are a good, just, righteous, and loving Father. Don’t let us grow bitter in this shadow of death. But pierce our hearts with a joy that we can not fathom or understand. A joy that is above all that is corrupted here on earth. Jesus you wept over death and so too, we weep. But it is a grief and a mourning that holds joy on the other side. You are conqueror of all; and so we trust You. We trust that You will do what is right, what is loving. Whether in death or in life Your will is accomplished and You are sovereign. May we know Your presence, Lord. Keep us ever aware of Your loving hand guiding us through all things. In the name of Jesus we pray, amen.
Learn More About Dealing With Death
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
– We have all
and deserve God’s judgment.
, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him.
, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He
for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was
rose from the dead
according to the
. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your
, declaring, “
Jesus is Lord
,” you will be saved from
and spend eternity with God in heaven.
What is your response?
Yes, today I am deciding to follow JesusYes, I am already a follower of JesusI still have questions