what death can teach us about how to live.
I was talking with a friend who had recently lost her father. He was young and it was rather sudden. His condition declined rapidly and in ten days he was gone. We were talking about how
in those times of mourning empathy can sometimes get lost. When you’ve just lost a parent or child the story of a friends aunt or dog passing away doesn’t seem quite rateable. In my experience part of that grieving process is fighting the subtle sense of pride that comes from inside. That feeling that says, “you don’t know how I feel” or “you couldn’t possibly understand”. Because on the surface we want to be alone. But why? Why do we push away the loving consolation in trade for our solace? I believe it’s rejection.
Loss, is a club that many people are a part of but no one wants to be in. And it’s very hard to relate to those who are in it, if you haven’t been there. Loss leaves deep impressions. It’s like pushing your hand into one of those memory foam mattress’. It takes time to decompress. And that pressure often causes us to impose our hurt feelings on other people. We become less trusting because someone or someones along the way abandoned us at a time that was “inconvenient”.
I first experienced death in a very real way in first grade. My cousin was accidentally ran over in his grandfathers driveway and he did not survive the impact. He was only a few years younger than me. I didn’t fully understand but I saw the pain that hit my family and the way it eventually destroyed his. When I was 12 my grandmother lost a battle with cancer, this time the pain was more personal because for the 11 months preceding her death most of the family my mom and myself included, were by her side. We tried every possible option natural and otherwise, but there was no reversing it. The deepest impression of grief on my soul came just a few weeks before my senior class trip. It was a Wednesday, I would usually stay at my friend Chris’ house on Wednesday nights so we could go to church together. I had just gotten my license and my parents didn’t really love me driving on the NH roads late at night. About an hour before church I got a call from my mom begging me to come home. We fought for a while and then I got in the car and made the 30 min drive back to my house. Her face was flush and my immediate thought was, “who died?”. She stood there with my Step Dad, they were holding eachother and she said, “honey, I’m so sorry, Rodney is dead.” “He had a heart attack just a few hours ago.” Rodney was my moms ex-husband, a man who in no un-certain terms was my Dad. He was my godfather, and he and his wife were ironically enough two of my parents best friends. Rod was the reason I started playing music, the one who helped me design my first website, the man I talked to about all my girl troubles, he even taught me how to pirate music.
I remember running into my room and looking at the gun in my closet, it was a little bolt action 22, but I was feeling so much pain I didn’t know what to do with myself. Thankfully I didn’t do anything harmful to me or anyone else, at least not in the physical sense. Instead I put on my strong face. I tried to be the soldier for my parents and everyone else. I locked down my emotions, I made it through the class trip, and a few weeks later a soldiered through graduation, I even made it through my first semester at college. My second semester however, I was at a prayer meeting on campus and for some reason no-one showed up except me and Mike. Mike and I had been in a band together in NH and he kind of followed me / I talked him into coming to school with me so we could be rockstars.
MIke knew something was wrong and that night he pushed my buttons, and he kept pushing them, bringing up a past I wasn’t ready to face, pouring salt into wounds that had been covered up but not healed. He kept digging in, making me talk about it, about Rod, about how mich I loved him and how mich I missed him and what he meant to me. Mike wouldn’t let up, I was angry at God and mike knew it and he wouldn’t let me go until I got honest. And I got honest, I yelled, I swore, and finally I cried, for the first time since that moment I shared with my 22 I cried. So hard in fact I passed out for a few minuets. And though opening up and breaking down didn’t make it all better it started the healing process. I process I could not have done on my own.
The truth is we all grieve at some point, and we all hear these words, “If there’s anything I can do...”. They sound so hollow and so empty at the time, but they also mean everything.
Love believes all things, hopes the best, keeps no record of hurt or wrong. So when you lose someone you love, is it possible to not hold it against them? To love them in their absence. More importantly is it possible to not force the pain and rejection we feel, the abandonment, the longing, on those who are trying to be there for us. Just because one person leaves me, hurts me, let’s me down, doesn’t mean everyone in my life is out to get me. It just means I’m wounded.
It’s okay to be wounded. we just can’t live there.
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,13contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Mike didn’t just make me grieve, he grieved with me. He climbed deep into my story and so even though he had never experienced loss in the same way that I had, his empathy was real and sweet and freeing. I had to be willing to let him in sure, but he had to be willing to come in the first place. Being family, together, as believers, is hard. It’s messy and frustrating and sometimes hurtful. But it’s also beautiful and redeeming. Follow the voice of the holy spirit and if you are lead to come along side someone, even if it’s tough, do it. If I have no arms I can not hug, with no feet I can not walk beside you, If I have no mouth than I have no comforting words to say...with this in mind how much more important is it for us to be the “body” of Christ. To be a hug to the hurting, to walk beside the broken, and to speak life to the lost and dying. Amen.