Almighty God, Conqueror of the Grave – Opinion

In my hometown of Simi Valley, California, we have a beautiful Holy Week tradition that helps us remember Christ’s sacrifice throughout the week. Mount. McCoy is located at the westernmost end of the valley. It was originally built in 1800s to mark the route for Spanish priests between San Fernando and Ventura missions. Since 1921 sunrise services have been held at the cross on Easter Sunday, and since 1941 (with a few exceptions) it has been illuminated every night during Holy Week by members of local community groups – some of whom have their families sleep overnight on the mountain to keep watch over the generator. However, Good Friday is the solemn reminder that there will be no light.

As a child I loved seeing the cross lit up during that week and thought it was pretty, but my appreciation for what it represents has grown significantly as I’ve gotten older and experienced the pain of losing a loved one.

After a brief fight against acute myeloidleukemia (AML), my father died in spring 2017. His disease was so advanced by the time we caught it that it doesn’t even seem appropriate to call it a “battle.” He was diagnosed on Friday, March 24 and died Monday, April 10. On April 7, he refused further medical treatment, and signed a DNR. We were blessed to have four days to say our goodbyes, but still, 16 days wasn’t enough time to fully grasp that my dad would no longer be somewhere on this earth – over the years, no matter how far away from home I traveled or lived, when I went to sleep at night I knew that my Dad was sleeping somewhere under that same sky, and that he was always there for me. You probably already know the meaning of what I’m referring to if you have ever lost a parent.

Last picture is of Mike Van Laar (my Dad), and me. His twinkle can be seen still. April 6, 2017. CREDIT: Jennifer Van Laar

Shortly after six o’clock on the Easter Monday, he died. After that, I went alone and walked to my car in a hospital lot. We hear stories about people transitioning to the next life with their family by their side but we don’t usually think about what happens next, that those left behind sometimes just walk right back into the “normal” world, get into their car, and go home.

As I drove home along the 118 Freeway, over the Santa Susana Pass and into Simi Valley to my car, I was greeted by an amazing sunset. He taught me to love sunsets, and it’s fitting that heaven welcomed him with a spectacular one. The new reality was so overwhelming that I began to weep as I drove down the freeway. In an effort to alleviate some of my grief, I put in Hilary Weeks’s favorite sacred music album. Near my Mt. It was almost dark when I got to McCoy’s house near Mt. As I sat at a stoplight, my thoughts were lost and I stared blankly at it. Then something said to me, “Look up.” I looked up to see the cross, illuminated against a dark blue sky.

Mt. McCoy is located in Simi valley, CA. It will be illuminated during Holy Week (April 10, 2017). CREDIT: Jennifer Van Laar

As I drank in the view, tears streamed down my face as I listened to these lyrics in the song “Through His Name”:

Our Faith’s Author and Finisher

The All-Powerful God

Conqueror of the Grave…


Through His name and through His name

There are many ways to be saved.

We can also live again with Him

The power of His name

That moment was when I felt reassured and comforted knowing that my Dad was there for me.

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