Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Grief

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Lately when someone asks me how I'm doing, I offer this: in the past 4 months, I've led 6 funerals.

Dear, dear people whom I've loved and people who've held significant roles of leadership and care in our congregation have died after seasons of debilitating illnesses. Some got sick and died quickly. Some simply reached the end after long health struggles. So much of my pastoral work the last 4 month has included sitting at bedsides of the dying, talking about funeral plans and services. Heavy stuff. Privileged work. Sobering.

With all of this in mind, I'm offering grief as our word of the week because it's been something I can't get off my mind.

Grief a word that means: mental distress one feels while experiencing a loss.

Maybe for you, this is not a season or grief, but I'm sure you know someone is walking through such a time right now. And if you don't, our world's news is full of stories of the grieving. I'm thinking especially about our friends in the Middle East who are continuing to navigate such a horrible war.

This is what I know: as much as you and I would love to shy away from the tender and painful emotions of loss-- grief can be one of life's greatest teachers, helping us focus on what is most important in a way that nothing else can.

Here's what I'm noticing about grief's invitations:

1. The final conversations you have with loved ones are never all you want them to be (you always want more), but that you remember those last words and savor them like gems. So maybe life would feel richer if you had more "get to the point" conversations sooner?

2. You never know when memories of loved ones will float back to find you. Music can be triggering. So can times when when you really want to have a talk on a subject. Or happy times were your loved one's absence feels overwhelming. So maybe you should just make friends with your grief knowing in part it will always be with you?

3. The journey of dying doesn't have to be avoided like a contagious disease. Beautiful things happen in the transition from this life to the next for those who can stay awhile and participate in it. So maybe you shouldn't be so afraid the next time you are asked to be present at a passing?

While my heart still feels tender for our church's grief, I smile at the beauty of what has been our experience of so many funerals. Community. Hope. Hands held. Joy through the cracks. And though there is a motto around our congregation right now, "No one else die now for a while" I do know that death will always be present in my living experience as it will yours. So we can't not think about it. We can't not talk about it.

May your grief be a good teacher for you too-