Friday, April 25, 2008

A Time To Mourn: Weeping With Those Who Weep

In processing a bit with my virtual brother Abbots at The Abbey this morning, these words tumbled out. It seems fitting to share them with those on this journey with me....

I’m wrung out myself today. Yesterday was the memorial service for the wife of one of my former pastoral colleagues. She was 21 (he is 29) and they had been married just 20 months, when they were involved in an absolutely horrific highway accident. I will spare you the details – they are the stuff of nightmares. They were driving to Kentucky to join an inner city church plant start up in Louisville…and then flying to the Exponential conference in Florida where Alan Hirsch and Neil Cole and all the "Big Names" are speaking. Their life in ministry together was just starting…and it came screeching to a halt when they were hit by 1000 lbs of steel pipe. She was killed instantly…he just needed a few stitches.

There were around 1100 at the service yesterday – and the entire staff I worked with was reunited from across the country. His wife was the daughter of another of our former pastors, and was an absolutely amazing young woman of God in her own right. The grief was palpable…and yet it was a service of hope and celebration of an exemplary life.

Well, I cried (sobbing at times) through the whole service. From where I sat, I could see the faces of my friend and his wife’s parents…which, of course, increased my pain as I entered their grief with them. That is one of the gifts I have been given – to enter into the pain of others with them. It is truly exhausting.

Anyway, I had to leave in time to get home before the school bus (my eldest wanted to come—he knew them both…and this was the first time he lost a young person that he knew personally), but I wanted to at least look in Jonathan’s eyes so he could see that I was there. Fortunately, the line was stopped in front of him – backed up in front of his parents-in-law – Jonathan was taking those moments to stare blankly off into the void without having to focus. The person in front of him was a good friend of mine…and I gently asked him if I could squeeze through.

I called Jonathan’s name and he came wearily back to reality…and when he saw it was me, the dull mask of stoicism cracked as he called my name and his grief came alive as our eyes met and I embraced him to tell him I loved him so much. And then he snapped back behind his mask as he said “thanks for coming” … the only thing he could really say in his mercifully numb state.

This has been a time of overwhelming silence for all … there is just nothing that can be said. And so thousands of loved ones have, in their fashion, sat down in silence beside our friend to help him weep.

I, of course, had a blinding headache and could barely drive home. I went to sleep for a few hours…but the headache was still there when I awoke. And all through the night, I kept seeing his eyes and the brief expression of grief he shared with me. Mine was a very soggy pillow….

And so I’m hoping to get a hold of this today and get some more sleep…

Thanks for letting me process this some with you.

Your grief-weary Abbess….

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