Please don’t misunderstand the title, read on. I am writing about grief. Yesterday evening I learned the tragic news that a friend passed away after being involved in a car accident. This young lady was not only a friend, but she was also a mentor and friend to the same students that God has called me to minister. She was a co-servant to my students, to our local church, and to our Christian school. She will be missed. But she will not be forgotten, she has made an impact on many young ladies. I woke up early this morning and could not sleep. All I could think about was my students and friends who would be broken hearted; I wondered how I could encourage them. I love my friends and my students. And I cannot stand the thought of their broken hearts. When their hearts break, so does mine. I was inspired to write this post and I hope that it will encourage someone. At times I can be socially awkward. I say all the wrong things at all the wrong times. I have been silent today. With the best intentions we can often say the wrong thing to people who are grieving.
If you follow my blog, then you know that I am writing an analytical thesis of popular theodicies. If you are new to my blog, theodicy is the technical term for the philosophical and theological attempt to reconcile a loving God in light of suffering, pain, and evil. In my reading I have been most encouraged by reading the testimonies of others. I have found personal testimony to be much more effective than academic material. So, I want to share a story with you, my story.
As a child, I cannot remember how old I was. I must have been nine or ten years old. My family and I were headed to Venice Florida to visit my grandparents, the beach, and a theme park. Prior to leaving Indiana we stopped to say goodbye to my great grandmother. We were all excited about our Christmas break which included vacation. After visiting for a few minutes it was time to say goodbye to my great grandmother. I always kissed her goodbye. But this time she wouldn’t allow me, and I don’t know why. I will never forget what she said, “you can kiss me when you get back.”
We had a great vacation, the day to return home had come. It was a twenty-four hour drive so we were awake early. Shortly after we woke up my grandma received a call, her mother (my great-grandmother) had passed away, unexpectedly. We left a little later because my grandmother arranged time off so she could travel back with us to arrange and attend the funeral. It was at breakfast, I think, but definitely a meal when I remembered that my great-grandmother declined my goodbye kiss and her words rang in my ears. I shared the story with my family and my grandmother burst into tears, juvenile idiocy.
The day of the funeral arrived swiftly. I remember when I looked in the casket at my grandmother. I burst into tears, uncontrollable tears. I had been taught all my life that boys don’t cry, that men are tough and they don’t cry. But there I was crying, sobbing, and I could not stop. I was embarrassed by my crying, ashamed. I needed to cry, to grieve. Whoever suggested that boys or men should not cry are true imbeciles, and know nothing about manhood or grief. Jesus wept.
As I lay awake last night I begin a poem; I finished this morning. It has been nearly twenty years since I wrote a poem. The last time, I was wooing my wife. I believe that the time has come, an appropriate time for a poem. Which best explains what I want to say to my friends and students. As I witness their crying, and read their words, I quote, “I don’t understand why this had to happen,” my heart is broken. The worst thing about being a parent and teacher, I hate to see my children and students in pain. I wish that I could take it all away, I cannot.
For what it is worth:
Life is but a vapor, we are told.
Death strikes the old, and the young.
Can you hear?
Time is passing by.
Time can be brutal and cruel, or sweet.
In the passing of time,
our past affects the present.
Can we rely on our memories for comfort?
Or will our memories haunt us?
Grief is a strange thing, a necessary sadness.
A broken heart cannot be mended,
by anything but time.
Take all the time that you need.
Scream if you need to.
Cry if you need to, cry whenever you want.
After time, when the tears run dry, be still.