We’re reading this book Holiness by J.C. Ryle in a life group that I’m in and last night I came across this passage:
“Some of us know by bitter experience what a long and weary time it is between the death of those we love and the hour when we bury them out of our sight. Such weeks are the slowest, saddest, heaviest weeks in all our lives. But, blessed be God, the souls of departed saints are free, from the very moment their last breath is drawn. While we are weeping, and the coffin is preparing, and the mourning being provided, and the last painful arrangements being made — the spirits of our beloved ones are enjoying the presence of Christ. They are freed forever from the burden of the flesh. They are ‘where the wicked cease troubling, and the weary be at rest’ (Job 3:17).”Holiness by J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) found at https://www.gracegems.org/Ryle/holiness.htm
A. I love how God interlaces everything I’m studying.
B. I was curious about the text, “…time…between the death of those we love and the hour when we bury them out of our sight. Such weeks…” Weeks? How could that be? So I did some research on burial traditions of the 1800s and it turns out that was a time of change as far as treatment and handling of the deceased. Early on, family and friends took care of their own dead. They kept them in the home for a period of time so people could stop by and pay their respects. There were no caskets. Later in the century, embalming and funeral parlors and undertakers (people who “undertook” caring for the dead) changed how all of that was done. Those changes were necessitated by the civil war. I won’t go into all of that, but it’s really pretty interesting.
So, pre-Civil War, the home of a deceased really was a “house of mourning.” People would stop in and pay their respects, whether they knew the family or not. The family’s needs were taken care of. People brought them meals; someone would volunteer to sit up with the deceased throughout the night (because of a superstition). Neighbors helped bury the dead when it was time. So, there wasn’t so much pressure on the family to entertain visitors. They were able to just take the time to mourn their loss.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Ecclesiastes 7:4 ESV
If you’re grieving and live near me, my church is having a seminar on November 14th called “Surviving the Holidays,” to help those who’ve lost someone get through the holiday season. If you’re interested, contact me and I’ll connect you.
Please join me this week in praying for those who are mourning and grieving the loss of a loved one. Please pray for their comfort and healing. Pray that they seek help and don’t try to go through the process alone.