It is perhaps when one is in the midst of grief that one is most aware of those grieving around him or her. That has certainly been the case for me in these months since my mother died and in the two years since she was diagnosed with cancer. Just this summer, two good friends have lost their fathers and one is waiting for her mother to die. In our parish, people are experiencing the deep pain that follows the death of a loved one. They are going through other kinds of grief, too - the grief of a loved one's prolonged illness, the grief of a marriage ending and other kinds of hurt about which we may never know. As I travel on my own journey, I am learning some things about grief - mostly through what I have read and what others have taught me. These are some things I have pieced together in my reading and listening:
*Everyone has a story. Everyone who has reached a certain age has known the deep, bone-jarring experience of losing someone they love.
*One of the most gracious things we can do for those who are grieving is to listen to their stories, to honor their pain and to give them permission to grieve - however long it takes.
*Sitting quietly with a grieving friend; gently asking someone how she or he is doing (and accepting the answer); praying with and for another: these are all compassionate reminders of Christ's unending and unchanging love.
*There are some people out there who really get grief, who have been there themselves and who are able to speak words of encouragement and hope. One such person is theologian and writer Frederick Buechner, a man of deep faith who has experienced deep loss. Here are a couple of his gems:
"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us."
"Go where your best prayers take you.”
Isn't this what we all need to hear every day? That God in Christ has our back and will never disappear from our lives? That our relationship with God will lead us through pain to a time when we can feel hope and even experience joy again?
I happened upon a delightful video this week: it is a meeting between U2 singer Bono and theologian Eugene Peterson (The Message Bible; Run With the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best; Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer.) Bono became aware of Peterson through reading The Message Bible and requested a meeting with Peterson. The two met at Peterson's breathtakingly beautiful mountain home and began a friendship. The result is an insight into how a rock superstar's music and a theologian's writings affect one another. You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l40S5e90KY.
Please keep Paul Everette of St. Mark in your prayers. Paul is hospitalized at Montgomery Lewis Gale in Blacksburg. I will share more information when I get it.
"I waited and listened for God. At last he looked: finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. he stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn't slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God." Psalm 40:1-3 (The Message Bible)