Friday, January 03, 2014

Mourn With Those That Mourn

One of the most difficult experiences in life is watching someone you know and love suffer. When the time of their mortal journey is through, mourning with those left behind can be nearly as difficult. The last few days have caused me to reflect on life again as various circumstances have brought death and the emotions that go along with losing a loved one to the forefront of my mind. No, I'm not dying and neither is anyone in my little family, gratefully. But my father is suffering near the end of his life and a friend of our greater soccer family passed away a week ago. So what is my personal role in comforting those who have lost and remain?

It sounds silly, but the other night while Rebecca was down at Cook Children's Hospital with our oldest (that's another story for another time), our oldest daughter suggested we watch Marley & Me. We normally don't get to watch it as Rebecca struggles with the ending. I'm not sure if it's because she's lost a few dogs in her life or it's just because she has a sweet and tender heart, but she refuses to be made to go through the emotions that inevitably come. As we neared the end of the movie, a friend mentioned via group text she was just finishing a very emotional and tear squeezing past episode of Downton Abbey and I shared what we were watching and how we were watching the "toughest part of the movie," at that moment. Her response was questioning whether I was crying and to take a sad selfie. Well, my friend knows me well enough to know I'm an emotional boob and while I'm pretty confident at self deprecating photos and dares, crying liberally and immortalizing it may be the line I'm not comfortable crossing. Either way, the movie experience brought other emotions to the surface and with at least one tender child I wept and enjoyed the moment.

A difference between Rebecca and me is I yearn for emotional experiences, including sad moments that cause tears to be shed. That's not say she is a robot, far from it. I can't begin to comprehend how she internally deals with the stresses, the anguish, the sorrow she's felt in her life and by saying our experience is different is to state truth; it's different. My desire to feel sadness stems from a yearning to understand it's opposition, joy, more deeply. I also don't have many personal experiences that deeply sadden my existence, so through association to others that mourn, are sad, are struggling, I begin to gain empathy through my projection of experiences into their own.

There are times where my life's perspective allows a first hand knowledge that allows me to more effectively exude empathy. Other times I'm clueless. Around the topic of death of a close loved one, I'm somewhat clueless as the I've only lost grandparents and my mother-in-law. But I've been around plenty of friends, including my beloved, through their times of loss and sorrow and have realized the position of fellow mourner is a vital role necessary in sustaining and loving those that are deeply grieving.

With the passing of our friend for whom we've prayed diligently since her aneurysm in May, our family and individually focused prayers have changed from her recovery, her stabilization and her ease in passing to comfort for the family. Yesterday she was laid to rest and we mourned with the family and friends during the celebration of life service  held in Colleyville. Much of the service was uplifting, sharing God's word through scripture and prayer. The music was touching and hand picked by her husband. At one point a very tender, and I'm sure very personal song that was likely a special pick between the couple, brought us all to laughter at the inappropriate lyrics including some that brought their son to sheer embarrassment. But at times, the emotions that I personally felt were so difficult to suppress, the tears begging to be released, welling up somehow in my already tender eyes from the night before and yet not breaking through to spill upon my cheeks, the catch in my throat so terribly achy that I only want to succumb to a relentless sob, that I knew what it meant to mourn with those that needed my comfort. And then it happened. The usher asked my family, a family that was waiting off in the wings as we were 3 minutes late getting to the chapel, to initiate the final procession past the open casket. Rebecca was asked to go first and she quickly pointed me forward. And as the leader, I made my way, solemnly, past her casket and said my final good byes, thank yous and "God Bless You," holding back my personal emotions.

Rebecca was not so graceful, allowing her tears to stream and her emotions to spill.  Her experience is so different and perspective more mature in the matter. She's lost her mother and has experience loss in a much deeper manner than I have. Her feelings are so raw and tender that all I wanted to do was hold her and somehow comfort her - which I eventually did.

The thing about life is it changes, all the time. We're constantly in a state of change, never staying static. At times we're called to minister to others and apply our life's experiences to comfort, mourn and provide a healing balm where we can. Other times we need others to do the same for us. I would have assumed at my age I would have needed more comfort by now but I've been blessed to be free of such heartache. Which only leads me to believe I'm going to get hit with a lot in the near future.

For those that are struggling that may read this (few likely), allow me to help in anyway possible. Whether through prayer or direct ministration. What I have to offer is not much but I offer it freely. For those that are already strengthened, reach out to those needing your help. There is always someone. Death is not the only cause for grief and mourning. There is always someone that stands in need of comfort and eventually it will be me. So practice up. I'll eventually need it.
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