Death has once again visited out family. We really wish he would never visit, but really have no reason to expect him not to. Death visits us all, prepared or not. It’s part of being alive in this world, eventually it ends. My wife Becky’s grandfather Bill Amandus passed away this week. If you’re more than a year or two old, you know that death brings with it pain. There isn’t any physical pain involved, at least for those of us left behind, and there isn’t any more pain for the one that’s gone. So why does it hurt so flippin’ bad when the life of someone we love ends?
I have known and loved a few people who have died over the last few years. Each loss was incredibly painful in it’s own unique way. As I look back across my own experience, I have asked myself that question. If I have faith in God, and know that my dead family member or friend is in heaven and far better off, why is that a sad thing? Of course I am focusing on those who have found Jesus as their Savior and I have reason to believe that they will live eternally with Christ. If I think they weren’t redeemed by Jesus, there is serious reason to lament. But if there is reason for joy, why the tears?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it really is about expectations. In regards to Becky’s grandpa, we were actually going to visit him in 2 weeks, the first time in 5 years because we live in a different state. We were extremely excited to see he and grandma and for our small kids to meets their great-grandparents. Suddenly that opportunity has changed. We had what we thought was a reasonable expectation that we could see grandpa, talk to him, enjoy his company and his wise words. In a blink, our expectations were dashed.
In another example, Becky and I had a still-born daughter. Our daughter Elizabeth was actually a twin. There were complications and we were doing everything we could for our 2 little daughters to have a chance at life. 6 months after conception, we got the news that one of our precious daughters, the one we called Katherine, had died, and would be still-born when we delivered Elizabeth in 3 months. Now that was painful. From a logical standpoint, why would that cause pain? I’d never seen her or heard her voice. I’d never held her, so really I’d lost nothing tangible to me, except a future that I was convinced would come. I had expectation of a birth, and holding her, and loving her, and all of the other things that should have come.
Everyone dies. They say that death and taxes are the only things that can truly by counted on. So why do we build expectations on the certainty that our relationships will last? How could we not?
I have found that unmet expectations are the culprit in many of my emotional outbursts of sadness and anger. Parenting is a terrific example. I have expectations of my children. Some are built from their past behavior, some by my own ideas of how they should behave. More often than not, when I get upset with them, it’s because I expect them to respond to my instruction and they don’t. What?!! A 3 year old boy doesn’t always listen and obey every time?
So as I realize that much of my own strife is based on my expectations, I have begun mitigating my expectations. It seems to keep me from pain, and keep me calm when people fail, because my expectations are low already. Now though, I wonder where that leaves trust. If one can only expect disappointment, how deep can a relationship really be?