CRUMBS AND JUICE
Grief is not an easy guest in the household of our spirit. Grief never really gives much notice but favours bursting in the door and announcing its arrival. Sometimes we feel like we can guess when grief might show up, but ultimately it seems grief comes on grief’s schedule. Grief has so many habits and so many ways of being, that its presence makes us very uncomfortable and very uneasy. Grief also instructs us with its unwanted presence. Grief teaches us things that we did not know about ourselves. We learn about our ability to see love in the midst of great pain. We learn how much we can bear when we have to. It teaches us that there are no easy answers to the most complex parts of living.
In the midst of grief we find sensitivities are heightened. Sadly, in the face of grief people often, in their loving attempt to fill the silence with words, find the most insensitive things to say. I have no idea how many people I have witnessed file past a casket in the past 12 years. I have heard people speak words that cut to the very core, thinking all the while that they were offering comfort. For instance, some people think that it is a comfort to tell people that “God has a plan,” or if you prefer, “we don’t understand it, but it is all a part of God’s will.” In my world, this past week, I see no justification of that theology. Being present with Gary and Annette and Leah as they said farewell to seven year old Becky, less than a year after saying goodbye to her twin sister Andrea at age six, I have great difficulty with the notion of a God who would ‘will’ or ‘plan’ that. In fact I would go far as to say that if that is the God that we worship, I resign! God does NOT ‘plan’ for children to suffer and die. I think that is cruel.
So where is God in all of this? Where in the name of all that is Holy has God gone when we have to stand and visit in a funeral home for such a young child? I will tell you where I witnessed God in the past days. Family and Friends; there is nothing that replaces the gentle love of someone who can stand by your side and tolerate the painful silences that punctuate the air in such difficult circumstances. God is in those silences. God is in the embrace that is offered. God is present in the eye to eye compassion expressed between buddies. Co-Workers; when those we work with take the time to stop what is happening in their lives and pay a visit, when our co-workers change the schedule ahead to make certain those grieving can be cared for and included, God is there. Funeral Director; There is a harsh reality to your day to day workload when your vocation is funeral services. Having said all of that, a funeral director will also be called into some powerful situations. When a young funeral director takes the time to assemble an album as a gift, God is in there! Parents; I watched Annette stand as a mother at Becky’s side. I watched the pain of Gary as a father who was strong and tender all at once. I watched as Helen and Gary and Frances and Don continued to be nurturing parents to their adult children and tender grandparents who also were in great pain. God was there! Children; watching Leah as a sister, as well as all of Becky and Andrea’s cousins adjust their hearts to what was happening with such grace and unabashed simplicity was a great source of healing and I would also say a great witness to where God is. Perhaps in what was one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had, the Bay Roberts Santa Claus Parade rolled pass Moores’ Funeral Home right before we closed the visitation to go to the church. It was amazing. We opened the blinds and we watched and we listened. Watching the children dancing, playing and singing brought tears and at the same time hope. It was good to see children doing what children need to do. In the children was the presence of God. Music; Dwayne Morgan is a very gifted musician who with his guitar and voice brought peace and comfort. He did it at church and he did it again in the evening. It was wonderful. The choir at St. Peter’s sang a wonderful anthem and we all sang hymns with a sense of God’s presence. God was there! The People of God; the church was well represented by the tender care offered by The Rev’d Bill Strong and his staff at St. Peter’s Church, the Rev’d Eric Hillier from the United Church in Shearstown, and the many clergy from surrounding communities who came and visited or who attended the funeral. God was in their love and pastoral care. In short – God was in the many acts of love and kindness that have helped see a young family through the difficult days past. God will continue to be present in the many acts of love and kindness that will help this young family navigate the difficulty of the days ahead. Becky and Andrea; despite the fact that we have had to say goodbye to these precious children far too soon, we have been gifted by the presence of God in them. At the funeral on Saturday, I quoted a book entitled “A Light Through the Crack.” A young mother was expressing the need to celebrate life and the gift that her child’s life was, despite its brevity. It was and is paramount that we celebrate the life that we had in Andrea and Becky rather than grieve what their life was not. Those who do understand that sentiment obviously never had the chance, or missed the opportunity to hold those little girls.
All of that being said, it is fair to say that it has been a difficult few days – bearable only because of those who have borne witness to God’s love. When we weep, God weeps.
It is all best summed up by seven year old Joy Parsons. She made her first ever visit to a funeral home on Friday. She came to visit her cousin Becky. She asked all of the obvious questions that children ask when they are facing death for the first time. When she was home she expressed her feelings to her mother, and my niece, Jennifer. “Mommy, even the crumbs and the juice in my belly were crying!” I have been very moved by these words. She did not cry at the funeral home. But she was able to express later that she was weeping all over. We who have maturity of years have lost perspective. We overcomplicate everything. Leading us to say things like, “I understand your pain.” The stark reality is that we could never understand another’s pain. But how profound we might be if we could adopt Joy’s honesty about what she was feeling. I preached at the funeral on Saturday (by far the most weighty honour and privilege I have yet had). Nothing I said was as effective as quoting Joy. Joy had it all summed up – “even the crumbs and juice in my belly were crying.”