Eleven days ago someone dear and precious in our family suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Tom was still young enough to have a prestigious position and was active in his community. He was blessed with a loving family and a large number of close friends.
I was not one of his closest friends, and yet I considered myself one of the many people who admired him and felt privileged to call him a friend. He was also the father of my daughter-in-law.
My personal sense of loss continues to be central in my thoughts. However, my deepest hurt is for both my son and daughter-in-law and her family. I have done three things that are typical for me when I don’t have answers available that solve the problem or that provide a cure.
First I started to pray. I took that deep, awful feeling straight to the throne of grace. I have listened and I will continue to listen. My grief is tiny in comparison to others, so I have prayed for the Lord’s presence and peace in their lives. I have prayed for the correct words to say. There aren’t any words that are free from possible offense. Even words of peace can hurt, because these are not the days of peace.
I’ve thought to say that I am praying for healing. But it is too soon. Healing does not look like a possibility nor is it yet desired. Hurting and numbness are the only true emotions right now. And thus I am praying that as I write that I love Tom’s family, that they will have something of value from that truth.
The second thing I did was to ask for others experiences and words of advice. A few of you have responded, and I gratefully thank you. I called up a dear friend whose daughter passed away unexpectedly 2 years ago. Just hearing the stories of grief has helped me see that people do learn to live on the other side of tragedy. I felt comforted.
Finally, I went to Morton Library at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary and took out a half dozen books on grieving. I have already devoured 3 of them.
My favorite is Living Through Mourning by Harriet Sarnoff Schiff. I like this book because it tells the many emotions that are normal and part of the process, and then it explains the emotions through stories. I can relate to the stories even if they have nothing to do with this situation.
Recently in Sunday school, we studied about the storm and shipwreck that Paul went through in Acts 27. He entered a commercial vessel as a prisoner on his way to trial in Rome. As he entered that ship, he had no way of knowing that there was a terrible storm coming that would put the ship in darkness for 14 days, and would be so violent that eating would be impossible. In the end, no one died, but the ship was damaged beyond repair. The storm ended and there were more challenges for Paul to face.
So it is for Tom’s family. They began that day just like any other day when the storm commenced. Their lives are now on that dark sea being tossed around aimlessly without any sight of solid ground. Someday, unknown at this time, they will see a dim light like the moon shining across the surface of the sea. Then in the distance there will be a spot of a rocky shore. And the challenge of this existence will continue on.
I have no answers other than love. We really do need each other in such times.