Never would/could I imagine that I would be crying in front of a crowd trying feebly to express my words of sympathy to grieving friends and families in my community of faith.
Before Covid happened, when I attended wakes, I would or might sit with friends, listen to their stories, pat them on the shoulders, hold their hands, hug them or just simply be with them in silence.
While it is sad to condole with bereaved families when hand-holding and hugging no longer possible, (how to give a tissue across zoom??) i realized the most I can give to show my love are my tears. The Bible teaches to rejoice with those who rejoice, to mourn with those who mourn. For me, mourning has gone up another level in the pandemic. And so, here are some lessons and discoveries I am learning in such a time as this:
1) Grief is a long journey to be experienced in community. It is more than just the few weeks/months/years of the dying on his sick bed. It is neither just the time when his suffering finally ended nor only the period between the hospital and the cemetery. It is again more than the few weeks/months/years after the cemetery.
2) In recent memorial services, I was more comforted by the stories of faith, courage, resilience, hope and persistence of the bereaved than I could ever hope to comfort them with my feeble and stereotyped words of condolences.
3) When I see the suffering of the sick and the burden/sadness of their families, I wondered if it’s ok to ask God to end their suffering by taking them away or do a miracle to let them get well and live longer. I realized that God is doing the in-between so the living can learn from the dying. Each time, i listened to eulogies, to reminiscences, I discovered gems of truth on how followers of Jesus shine bright thru the valley of the shadow of death.
Ultimately, I discovered a bit of the ways of our paradoxical God: the God who allows the dying to teach the living how to die. He enables the bereaved to comfort others in their grief. God empowers His children to see life and death thru his eyes of love. Death is a reality of life. Abundant and eternal life on earth as it is in heaven is possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This is my faith and my hope: God knows what He’s doing all the time. God loves me. God cares for me. He provides for me. He stays with me thru each deep dark pit and walks me thru each dark valley. One day all suffering will end. And I shall live in the house of the Lord, forever (Psalm 23:6).
For he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.