One of my dear friends lost her son in a freeway accident this past week. I will be attending his funeral next week. Having seen my share of deaths and funerals, I know the heavy weight of grief she is experiencing right now. When we go to someone’s funeral, how do we respond? Do we give the survivors time-worn platitudes? Do we tell them it was God’s will? Do we judge them, and think, If you had only done this or said that, it might have turned out differently? Do we refuse to look them in the eye because their grief makes us uncomfortable? Do we flee? Do we avoid them? None of these things help. None of us can see into another’s heart or see clearly into the past or future. Yes, our faith can be a great comfort during times of sorrow. We hang onto our faith as if it was a rope dangling down a deep, black hole, as if it’s the only thing that will keep us from crashing on the rocks below. I can’t imagine trying to survive without that rope. But that doesn’t make the darkness go away or lessen the heavy weight on our chests. It seems that our capacity to grieve is directly related to our capacity to love. Those awful stages of grief still have to be crawled through. We must still somehow make it through them.
I think that the best response we can give those who mourn is love. For some, that love will be expressed with flowers. For others, it’s a casserole, or an offer to care for children. Some will offer heartfelt prayers. Others will give the gift of being there and listening. We need to be sensitive to what their real needs are. To mourn with those who mourn, to comfort those who need comforting, to weep with them and hold them close so that they know they are not alone — these are the only true responses we can give. However we express it, may we have the courage to give that love when needed, for we are all travelers together in the journey of life.
Paul Simon: Mother and Child Reunion