I read a moving blog entry today, by a bishop who struggles to find the right words for those who are in mourning. I’m grateful for his admission because that’s my problem. Digging deep. searching for something remotely comforting to say, I instead stammer, probably coming off like a guy who’s mentally flipping through his To-Do list, before I manage to choke out the trite & true, “I’m, um… really sorry.” The bishop added that in those moments he feels abandoned by the Spirit, left alone to scrape together whatever pearls he can by himself. Amen to that.
The truth is, I do care– very much– but there’s something wrong with my wiring. I cry like a baby at movies, but am hard-pressed to shed a tear when someone dies, even someone I know. I didn’t cry when my dad died, or my grandma. So you can imagine my impression of people who bawled their eyes out when Michael Jackson and Princess Diana left the building. It makes me a horrible consoler. It makes me feel like a sociopath. Nevertheless, I insist that, yes, my heart can and does go out to the grief-stricken.
When Miss D was around eight, one of her friends was finally coming to the end of her battle with a long illness. Sometime before she passed, I ran into her father at the school where he was dropping off his other kids. I asked him how he was, and after initially trying to come off with a brave “you-know-how-it-is” shrug, he suddenly collapsed into my arms, and I just held him there as he sobbed and sobbed, his anguish pouring out from the darkest depths of his soul. I had no words for him, I had no tears for him. I could only hold him for dear life and wouldn’t let go until I knew he was relieved. Let me clean their house, orchestrate their family’s meals, make all the funeral arrangements– I’ll even dress the body! I’d do all those things before getting the assignment to offer words of consolation.
One last thought: I said that I never cry when someone dies. I have a feeling when my mom (who is 80) finally goes, I’m going to surprise myself. Badly.