"The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
~ Psalm 34:18
Yesterday a group made up of chaplains, clergy, and consultants who specialize in trauma recovery met for lunch. The focus centered on the losses we have encountered while serving those who were effected, whether directly, or indirectly, from the hurricane this past summer.
I think that for those in attendance, as the chaplains I serve with shared of their experiences, a greater understanding of what hospice chaplains do each day became much more apparent. The daily losses we encounter can be somewhat overwhelming, but then add a real storm to the mix, and the losses we encounter become devastating.
Our discussions focused around loss and grief, self care, and how we can focus on remaining a positive presence for others.
In the church we don't actually ever really speak about death and loss. We talk a whole lot about surrender, and sacrifice, but rarely do we talk about the one thing we will all experience, and that is death.
We do have Good Friday, the day that we remember the death of Christ, and then the church falls silent and we can't seem to wait until Easter morning to announce that "He is risen."
For each of us there can be, and let's face it, there are, real losses in our lives.
There is not any one of us immune from death.
At some point we all will die. I don't know of any of us who have not thought about our own death. Many have shared that they aren't afraid of dying. It's the process they worry about.
The church reminds us that if we live a good life, helping others, and loving one another, that our life will be filled with many blessings, but the fact of the matter is, we will still experience losses and like our friends and family, we will die one day as well.
Having suffered a serious illness several years ago, I lived every day with the knowledge that I could possibly die. There was a popular song on the radio at that time that reminded folks to live every day as "if you are dying."
You don't tell people with a terminal illness to live every day as if they are dying. They already know that.
Instead, live every day as if you are truly living!
While I acknowledge our need to talk about death, we are also faced with moving forward. In the United States there was a study a few years ago that reported we expect people to return to work and function normally after experiencing a death within two weeks.
There have been an untold number of books written about grief and recovery, but our grief is a personal journey, which for some, lasts their entire lives.
Additiinally, there have been just as many books and articles on what to tell others when someone close to them has died. I wish that I could say that there are perfect words to express, but sometimes there are simply no words.
Upon arriving at the tomb where the friend of Jesus laid, "Jesus wept."
There were no words.
In our understanding of loss, sometimes our outward expression of being sorry is simply enough. The language of our hearts can often be spoken in silence, with hand holding, and with tears.
As I begin to think of the journey of Lent less than a month away, I am reminded, "From dust you were created, and dust you stall return."
May our losses be surrounded by the love of Christ, and may we use that love with one another.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
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Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.