But, to give myself some credit, I have opened the mail, read email, and enjoyed the sweet cards and messages made for me by the children and youth of the church.
Everything I opened and read brought a smile to my face. What kindness and love!
Several weeks ago, shortly after the massive stroke that eventually took my mother's life, I preached about the importance of community while recognizing that some things we must do alone. Each of us has to die on our own--no one can do our dying for us. But we can be accompanied by others on the way.
And each of us has to grieve on our own. No one can do our grieving for us. But we can welcome the companionship of others on the way.
I'm especially aware of that essential aloneness as I prepare myself for the memorial service on Friday and also prepare myself to go back to my work life, which I have missed so much. I feel sure that my tears, which have been further away in the last few days, will start to roll again. Not because the sadness is worse, but because I will be touched even deeper by the power of other human beings to empathize and care for others, even as we have to walk our own journey.
Many have asked me, "What can I do?" I know I've asked the same question of others who are going through dark and scary times. "What can I do?" Unfortunately, there is actually quite little. Some household tasks have been neglected, but we will catch up on these at some point, and they are really no big deal. We've plenty of food, so all that is covered. No one can write my thank-you notes for me, or sort out my tangled finances for me, or go through my mother's things for me. No one can think my thoughts for me, or take the place of my mother for me.
What can we do for others at these times? I've realized that sometimes I just need to talk. So, we can all listen. Sometimes I just need to be alone. So we can all celebrate solitude. Sometimes I need to know that someone really does love me. And that is where the cards, the notes, the messages, the emails all add up into a solid scaffolding of love and compassion. The hands and feet of Jesus, so to speak.
I continue to be aware of how very, very fortunate I am. The loss of a parent, especially an elderly one, is a normal and expected part of life. She didn't suffer long; I was able to be with her most of the time at the end. That's about as good as it gets.
There are those whose losses are so great that my grief looks like a speck of dust compared to their mountains of anguish. I particularly think of those who have lost a child to illness or accident. All of us should expect to bury our parents. None of us ever wants to bury our own children. When faced with that kind of open wound of grief, everyone with any compassion within them says, "What can I do? How I wish I could help!" You can. Prayers really do help. A lot. And so do the cards, notes, calls and emails. They can't take away the sadness, but they do help us to realize that in our aloneness, we are most definitely not alone.