Arranged on the shelf above my desk are various photos of my dad, along with a family picture of my husband and me with our 3 young (at the time) children. A small flowery sign in the center of the pictures reads “wish you were here.” We lost my dad last summer after a difficult battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
There’s also a stack of three small stones known as a cairn–a “heap of stones piled up as a memorial or as a landmark” (Merriam-Webster). The Bible refers to cairns being used for symbolic purposes: as reminders to honor and obey God, signifying accountability to Him and as reminders of God’s faithfulness & power:
“When your children ask in time to come, “What do those stones mean to you?” then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever” (Joshua 4:6-7, ESV).
It seems fitting to keep the cairn next to my father’s picture as a reminder of his faith in Christ, his most precious legacy for our family. For me it’s also a simple memorial symbolizing how the Lord is faithful and sovereign over all things, even death.
After Dad died, we celebrated his life with a beautiful, moving memorial service. God blessed our time together and it was a good day for which we are very thankful. Losing him was very painful and we wish Dad was still here with us. But we are comforted knowing he is whole again because of what Jesus accomplished, and we rejoice in the promise of Heaven.
A few short months after my father’s death we celebrated a major milestone when our first-born daughter got engaged. So many preceding months had been indescribably difficult, but the year certainly ended on a high note! Our daughter’s marriage took place this past spring, and we now have a wonderful new son-in-law. We’ve ridden a roller-coaster of lows and highs, and God has been gracious.
During the weeks before the wedding our family was burdened by a variety of factors and interference. We prayed and asked the Lord to intervene mightily. We committed to accepting and cooperating with His will no matter what. Our hope was for a beautiful ceremony that would glorify Him, regardless of any circumstance. As I prayed and leaned into Scripture, a theme about rain repeated along with gentle reminders to trust God through the storm:
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Isaiah 43:2).
“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40).
We had spent months planning and investing in a beautiful outdoor garden wedding. Although there was a backup plan in the event of rain, it was very discouraging to consider how different an indoor arrangement would be from the bride’s vision of being outside under the evening June sky. Then on the morning of the wedding, the forecast called for a 98% chance of rain with severe thunderstorm warnings predicted right before the ceremony was scheduled to take place. The outlook was bleak.
Plans were scheduled to begin at 2:00PM, but being outside seemed very unlikely once thunder and heavy downpours started at about noon. We began hearing from guests who were unable to travel due to road closures caused by severe weather, which was now heading our way. We continued to ask the Lord to hold back the rain so that outdoor plans could proceed. It seemed impossible but we had peace, trusting God to bless the day no matter what, even indoors.
Then just before 2:00PM the rain subsided, the clouds dispersed, and the sun came out – and we set everything up outside! We praised God and marveled at the miracle. The property glowed and sparkled after the storm, resulting in the most stunning photographs. The ceremony took place under an old ash tree next to a meadow in the late afternoon sun. The couple were radiant while the natural beauty all around seemed magnified, like a dream. The reception was overflowing with fellowship, laughter, dancing, outdoor games, delicious food, and wonderful memories. Despite all the earlier worries, it turned out to be the most relaxed and joyous celebration–better than we could have imagined. God truly blessed the day.
Funerals and weddings are profound hallmarks of life, albeit opposite experiences, yet they both point us to Jesus and heaven. Scripture describes the ultimate wedding in heaven between Christ and His bride, the Church:
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God” (Revelation 19:9).
We can’t escape suffering or death in this world, but Jesus conquered sin and the grave, securing salvation for those who put their faith in him:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
If you are struggling and carrying heavy burdens, call upon the Lord and know that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Be encouraged by remembering what the Lord has done. He can sustain us through difficult times and then bless us with rejoicing. He is the Lord of endings and new beginnings. We can trust in His faithfulness and look to Him to guide us, like markers leading the path:
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
When I reflect on the previous year since my father’s death, I remember many days full of grief, stress, uncertainty, and worry. But they are all overshadowed by God’s intervention and miracles on that amazing wedding day. I miss my dad and think of him so fondly. The simple river stones next to his picture remind me that we’ll be reunited again, because we serve a mighty God who conquered the grave and even subdued the rain at a special wedding this past June.
Let’s pray like the apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:20-21:
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”