I don’t know how your church does it, but where I came from, when you joined a church they had you stand at the front and after the closing prayer the members come up and welcome you with hugs, handshakes and invitations to collaborate…and by collaborate I mean sign up for a committee and participate. There is more to church than just holding down that pew or chair on Sundays, people!
In the glorious year of 1989, a freshly wed newlywed navigating my way through adulting, I joined a church and found myself on a committee…It was the bereavement division and my role would be to deliver…when needed…a meal to a family suffering loss.
The phone rang and I did like any good southern girl would do when asked to bring food…
I swung through the Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-thru and got a bucket of chicken.
I found the house and rang the doorbell.
Before I continue…let me offer you a visual.
I am wearing the same outfit I wore to my bachelorette party a month prior.
Why? Because I was ignorant.
It was all things 1989. Black pants and a black cropped, double breasted jacket with large gold buttons and braided cord accents. Think Michael Jackson goes sailing. Add in my big permed hair and ankle boots that had seen their fair share of dance floors and you’ve got the picture.
I step inside the living room and stood equipped with a bucket of chicken, yet unequipped with the proper words to offer and I said…
“I’m sorry for the loss.”
Yes “the” loss. Not…”I’m sorry to hear about your dad? mom? brother? uncle? daughter? ….no…The loss. As if they lost a job or their car was repo’d…
I placed my deep-fried condolences in the nearest hands and got the heck out of that awkward, learning opportunity.
And let me say…I still to this day don’t know who died.
I just knew someone did and my job was to take food.
Grief is weird. People don’t know what to do with it. Especially if they’ve been blessed enough to not endure a loss that hits close to home.
It’s been over five months since I lost my best friend and only 2 months since I said goodbye to my stepson. The grief is still very tangible and dealing with me on new levels everyday.
There is guilt for having a good day. Anger for having to feel guilt at all. Tears that seem endless and daily. Denial that takes on a new name…known as reality…and with that reality deep, deep breaths that exhale all the pain and make you day by day stronger. And just when you feel stronger your days get better… and then….you feel a little guilty.
It’s real people.
As I’m typing this I receive a text from a friend telling me her family just lost someone young and it’s so very sad and unexpected. I get it now. My sympathy is now empathy and I hurt with them.
Sympathy says, “I’m sorry for the loss”. Empathy says, “I’m so very sorry. I get it. It’s not going to be easy. I’m here for you. Don’t hesitate to call. I’ll come running. Let’s pray. Now. We need Jesus. Oh my God. Why?”
I had some friends call me immediately and jump right in the pain with us. I had others who needed a minute to reach out and that’s okay. We don’t know what we don’t know…but when we do know…we act differently. We are seasoned in our ability to just be there and sit in it. To be okay with the awkward and the silence and the mourning and the loss. To know that words, whether finesse and eloquent, or stumbled upon and quirky are simply coming from someone willing to show up in the middle of the inevitable.
If you’ve wanted to reach out, please do. Please do not hesitate to call me and please don’t worry you will say the wrong thing. You will. And I will, too. The sweetest thing was when two of my Baton Rouge friends showed up on the scene with lunch and fruit trays and sat with us at our table and made us eat. And even if they’d both shown up with buckets of chicken and dressed like they were going to a club we’d have appreciated it…which makes me think my efforts back in 1989 were more appreciated and less judged than I’d imagined.
I truly am sorry for the loss. I am sorry for those gone too soon. I am sorry for floods that take everything. I am sorry for failed marriages and kids that didn’t grow into the adults you were hoping they would be. I am sorry your business took a hit and your life is now downsized. Anything that makes you sad or lonely or realize the brevity of life and the reality of the pain… I am sorry.
Please continue to keep Kurt in your prayers. I never imagined two months after I said I do, I’d be married to a man who daily grieves the loss of his boy. His one and only son. But I also never imagined God would think enough of me to call me to stand beside this beautiful soul and hurt with him. What an honor. Two really is better than one.