Pastor Jeff always summons his flock to be careful with our words. Words do hurt. He especially encourages us to choose our words carefully when dealing with the expression of grief and sympathy to someone who recently lost a loved one in their life. His intent is not to strip one’s loving expression to another from its heartfelt sign of care, but rather to understand that emotions are at peak levels and misunderstanding comes easily. I interpret his teachings as, “less is more.”
My friend recently lost her mother. Mom lived a long life. Truly, a textbook example of how to live. She passed to streets of gold as trumpets sounded. So it is, for all of us, that we are reminded that this life, however long, is but a vapor compared to the eternal life that awaits.
In the clunky moment of expressing sympathy and condolences, I seem to never say the right thing. Even with “less is more” as my beacon, I still tend to drift outside of the narrow path I set for myself, and without much warning, my hopes for a silver tongue inevitably turn to clay. I said something to my friend like “This grief will pass, and the celebration of her life will become your focus.” Really, what the heck was that? I was instantly looking for the button to “recall the previous message.” Too late. UGH…I hate myself sometimes. My unintended insensitivity rang like something a coach says to a team after a close loss… “Suck it up, we did a lot of good things that we’ll focus on — not the loss.”
I never knew her mom, but the grace with which she lived is obvious in my friend. She was gracious in thanking me for coming, even though I had stepped all over my tongue on the beautiful church carpet. She wouldn’t expect an apology, but I demand one of myself.
Please know that I meant to say something different. I meant to say that grief is real and palpable, and your grief is yours alone, and at whatever pace you choose to grieve, know that your friends and family will understand and be there to support you. I meant to say that your mother’s life is to be celebrated for the grace and dignity in which it was lived. I meant to say that in time, joyful tears take the place of sorrowful ones.
I lost my mom 40 years ago. The hole in my heart that it left behind has never fully closed, but it has shrunk. The emptiness that was early and often was replaced ever so slowly with the fullness of her life. Today my thoughts are of her unspeakable joy, her compassion and her abundance of love. My life was a blessing with her. I will see her again.
Please, my friend, may you know peace that passes all understanding. I am thinking of you.