Today I read a post by Caleb Wilde a 6th generation funeral director and friend of my son, Todd. I was struck by the truth of his post and I especially like his ending. Thank you Caleb
Probably one of the more insensitive things you can say to the bereaved at a funeral is, “I understand what you’re going through, and you’ll get through it.”
You don’t really understand.
Maybe you experienced the death of child, or a spouse, or a parent, but each person’s grief is different..
I had the unpleasant duty of picking up a baby who died shortly after birth from the hospital the other day. The security guard and I were talking about what it must feel like to lose a child and we were debating if we would rather lose a child at birth or when the child was older. We decided that we didn’t want either.
He said, “I never really could understand what it must feel like to lose a child until I had one of my own. The thought of losing him would kill me.”
In Death, No One Understands …
A cliché I hear from young people goes something like this, “You don’t know what I have to deal with … you don’t know what I’m going through … you just don’t understand!”
This statement is particularly true in death.
Relationships are special, individual and irreplaceable. What you have with a loved one is only between you and them and it can never be fully understood by someone else.
No One Can Understand … Except maybe God.
In some sense, God shares a special relationship with everyone in the world. You could say that each of us, whether we want him or not, are his children.
Nicolas Wolterstoff stated, while journaling about the loss of his son, that the tears of God are the meaning of history.
In other words, the heart wrenching pain that God feels when He loses a son or a daughter is His very motivation to move and change history. You can almost picture God as a wondering and dejected parent looking for his children to bring them back home. It’s a frightening picture.
In some sense, God understands.
A couple years back, a parent who lost his child wrote a poem that he handed out during his child’s funeral. The poem was almost a diatribe against God. He wrote something to the effect of, “God if you knew what it was like to lose a child, maybe you would have cared enough to have spared mine.”
The more we think about God’s experience as recorded in the Bible, there’s little pain He hasn’t experienced.
He’s lost a son.
He’s been rejected.
He’s lost what He called His wife (Israel was his wife in the Old Testament).
Joseph, the husband of Mary, most likely died when Jesus was young. Jesus probably had to financially provide for His mother.
In the end, Jesus was murdered after an atrociously unjust court hearing.
God has been as subject to pain as we have been. Even with His great power, He’s still unable to escape the hurt that is involved with intimacy.
He Understands and Has the Strength to Help Us
He’s experienced all the effects of sin, all the injustice and pain, just like us; yet, he’s never sinned, very much unlike us. That’s why we can say He understands our pain and yet He, unlike so many others, has the fortitude of character to lead us out of it.
August, 2008 it hit me . . . three years ago, this day was the last time I saw my brother.
I had asked him to come to Illinois. Mom had been sick that summer; we almost lost her. She was out of the hospital, but still not well enough for me to feel good about leaving them for a long planned-for 8 day Alaska Cruise with long-time friends. And I was exhausted.
I had talked to Gordon about possibly coming to visit them so I could go, but he said it was Carol’s Mother’s 80th Birthday Celebration that weekend. A short time later, he called me back, telling me he was coming. He said Carol just felt it was important for him to come. Sometimes as I think of her generosity, I wonder if I would have done the same thing had the tables been turned. Maybe I was still somewhat in denial about how serious it really had been.
I do know this. While it was important for him, I often think if was more important for us – not for the weekend but for what was going to happen. How grateful I am for her generosity.
While he was here, he and Dad went to St. Louis Cardinal Baseball game, something they had not done since Dad took us to our first big league baseball game as children.. Being an avid, life-long Cardinal Baseball Team fan, it was particularly fun for him to take Gordon again. None of us knew it would be their last Father/Son adventure.
The next day, I drove Gordon back to Chicago to catch his flight back home. He went via Great Falls which necessitated a late night drive home so he could get the good airfare. What follows are my “snapshot” memories of that last day with my only remaining brother.
This visit – such grace . . . little did we know
* * *
So clearly I remember this day
Taking a photo of Mom, Dad and Gordon
“in case he doesn’t see her again,”
he thinks and I think.
A quick stop on the way out of town
for a steaming cup of coffee
Ahh, a traveling companion who gets it
the importance a good cup of coffee for the road.
A surly, Goth-looking, pierced clerk waits on us.
He sees the sign on the way in.
“People with smiles wanted – now hiring.”
Chuckling on the way out he says:
“She could be reason for the sign.”
He doesn’t miss a beat
always finding a reason for
that infectious grin of his –
always finding a way to make us smile.
A stop 1/2 way there –
How does he remember this truck stop?
He doesn’t travel this way often!
But Gordon always knows where he is.
Gordon doesn’t get lost – ever!
Gordon is like the original
A run to the airport to drop him off.
I know we hugged and kissed goodbye.
We always do.
“Bye! C’ya” he probably said.
He always did.
I just wish I could
“Be careful” I say,
“Don’t fall asleep on that lonely road
so late at night.”
They’d never find him
until it was too late,
I’ll be OK he says.”
I smile to myself.
He’s always OK!
How was I to know?
2 months and 27 days later
in an early November snowstorm
on a hunting trip
he would get lost,
fall asleep on a lonely road
and wake up in heaven because
they wouldn’t find him
until it was too late.
Three years have now passed.
He found his way “home.”
He really is “OK”
just like he said!
And he’s probably smiling still!
If I could tell him goodbye
just one more time,
we would exchange a quick
hug and kiss.
He’d say ”
“Bye – C’ya.
And this time I would remember
Next time we meet
he’ll say “Hi.”
We all will.
and never again will he say
(To read about the story surrounding those “Days of Loss” CLICK HERE)
Linking with Diedra Riggs and The Sunday Community
Psalm 18:2 You , oh Lord are my rock. my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my strength in whom I will trust.
The ground surrounding the rock changes . . .
muddy, soft in rain . . .
firm in sunshine . . .
gives away in the summer.
The ROCK is firm . . .
providing firm footing
in rain or sunshine.
LORD, You be my ROCK!
I will plant my feet on YOU
through the ever-changing
landscapes of my life.
When the ground around me shifts,
help me stay and trust the ROCK.
Originally written June 2008 – during a time of much uncertainty and change in many areas of our life. As I re-read the entry today, I notice much of what prompted this has not been resolved and newer more urgent issues have arisen, but , but the”rock” and what it signifies continues to encourage and bring peace.
I am in a small group and we are to ponder our answer to Jesus’ question, “What do you really want from me?” I found something I wrote back in February and it captured the essence of what I want right now –
God, I need to hear from You . . .
sense your presence . . .
know you are near . . .
really know it.
Today I feel the “true me”
stepping into the shadows.
Why do I think it’s safer there?
It’s not safe for my soul . . .
the “true me” you made.
The “me” you have made often hides
behind a façade of
being “in charge”
the very façade
I so detest
I find myself wanting those shadows.
No, I don’t want to go
as much as I feel
pulled . . .
I am tired.
The effort not to go
is too much.
And I end up there
by default when I am
too tired . . .
Yet I wonder.
Maybe it is not so much a desire to be alone
as an obsession with what others
might be thinking of me.
And I always believed it to be noble
to worry about others,
to be willing to submerge
I thought it was about them,
when often it was about me.
Lord, I need to be reminded today
of who I am.
I am Your servant!
Help the true me to come to serve today
Dear Carol . . .
My presence will go with You
the Real You
I’ve always been with the
When you are with your
you have a harder time
feeling my presence!
Keep your eyes on ME!
My son and his wife live in an OLD stone farm house. In the back yard is an old root cellar…. a weird focal point to the back yard. The kids love to climb over it. (for the grandmas reading this, the door is secure!) Tonight it’s back yard Graduation Party for my son who has graduated from Seminary, 10 years, 1 wife and four children later . . .. .
The night air filled with
the sound of children at play
and the easy conversation of adults
is broken with a fearful cry . . .. . .
a cry that escalates with the fear.
A little boy in a yellow shirt is perched atop the root cellar,
afraid to come down
because of a Big Spider.
Daddy hears . . . comes to rescue him
and investigate the source of his fear
As Daddy sets him down and inspects the offending Big Spider,
the little boy in the yellow shirt scampers right back up beside him.
The fear of the spider is broken. . .
The little boy in the yellow shirt suddenly fascinated
by the very thing that caused such terror
moments before . . .
All because Daddy is here.
It reminds me that the presence of Jesus can
calm our fears,
grant us courage
even when things
Isaiah 41:10a (The Message)
Don’t panic, I am with you
The model airplanes are flying again,
diving low, at times skimming the lake
and rising again,
banking to the left and then to the right,
at times simply flying through the air.
I think of how the safety of the plane depends on
the skill of the operator.
Lord, as our lives dip, turn, rise, flip and roll
Help us to remember . . .
You have the controls of our lives.
There is no problem with Your skill as operator.
Our response is to simply rest
in this confidence
as we move through the
days . . .
weeks . . .
months . . .
you have remaining for us.
There will be times it won’t turn out
“all right” . . .
all the time . . .
to our liking . . .
but as long as it’s to
Your liking . . .
Your plan . . .
and in Your time . . .
we can rest secure.
Even when we lost Gordon,
He was not lost to You.
We did not die.
We still love You.
We still say You are good.
Blessed by Your name!
Today I see them . . .
the baby ducks.
I look for them every year,
It’s already June
And I have been wondering where they are.
Maybe it’s been too cold –
Too. . . . . something?
And I am surprised by how
seeing them today makes my heart sing.
And I wonder what this is all about.
Maybe it’s because it just feels good
seeing things work
like they are supposed to
when it seems like so much doesn’t
work at all.
I sense a sweet peace,
all because of a mama duck
and her ducklings.
Could it be, God, that it’s a reminder to me
of your faithfulness?
And then I remember Genesis 8:22 . . . .
“As long as the earth endures
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”
from www.ToddHiestand.com – August 2007 post. Thought provoking and an important concept.
August 16, 2007
Tonight, my parents hosted a little get together for all of their friends (many were friends who have known me since I was just a little weasel) to come and welcome Mason into our family. It really was a neat time and we were excited to have so many people be so excited about this kid.
One of the things that I often hear now is the statement that “God must have such a special plan for Mason.” This is great statement and I do believe that it is true. In fact, I can’t believe that after a year and a half of waiting we find ourselves parents of someone who seems like such a perfect fit to our family. God’s finger prints are all over this kid and his adoption that is for sure.
My only concern with this kind of statement however, is how it might be misunderstood by him as he grows up. When we say “God has something special and great for you” I hope that we are very, very careful in how we frame that. I mean, its not as if God has a more special plan for Mason than he does for Cole right? My worry is more in what he learns to define as “special” and “great.” What I mean is that we (and by we I mean us and all his friends) need to be careful not to put unnecessary pressure on him to become something like an astronaut or a great pastor or write a book or cure the planet of AIDS.
What I do hope that we can do for Mason and for Cole (heck for all the children in our lives) is help re-define greatness for them from the narrative of scripture. I pray that they can grow up knowing that their greatness lies not in their profession or job but in something comepletly different.
In fact, first and foremost I pray that their measure of greatness simply comes from the knowledge that they are God’s beloved, his children, his special creation. Second, I pray that they would simply understand greatness in how well they love God and love others and how they respond to God’s call on their lives to be part of what he is doing in the world.
I can think of many people who are “great” (many of them were at this gathering tonight) who no one has ever heard of. No one will ever write books about them. You won’t find their stories by searching on Google. But, they have loved and grown Godly families and served God in amazing, compassionate and faithful ways and have truly been part of what he is doing in the world.
So, here’s to redefining greatness and allowing our children to not feel the pressure to be something “great” in the worlds eyes and instead allowing our children the freedom to become who God is calling them to be.
Carpenter? President? CEO? Garbageman? Pastor? Who really cares.
(For the record when people say this to us, I know that they believe the same things I do, my emphesis here is just on how our children interpret what we say).
added note by Grandma: There are now two more Hiestand Men in the family!
This was written September 17, 2005, about 6 weeks before my brother died.
The fear that plays around the edges of my heart is that this enjoyment of scripture, this new way of studying Your word will fade away (reading for the pause, writing to You, God and being quiet as I wait to hear what You might way and then writing it down.) And I’ll get stuck just reading for information/content again.
What if it’s just a nice idea that doesn’t last long? I’ve read the first 4 chapters of John and have never gotten so much from reading your Word…What if I read sometime and nothing speaks to me? Lord, I have been here before – but it didn’t last. What is different this time?
I talk to Shirley about it and she sends me the following note by mail:
“And so, after she has risen, the Word again says “Rise” and after she has come, He says “Come.” One who has thus risen never lacks the opportunity to rise further and the one who is running towards the Lord, never reaches the end of the space available for the divine race. We should always be rising and those whom the race is bringing close the goal should never stop. Each time the word says “Rise and come,” He gives the power to ascend to still loftier heights. (St. Gregory)Carol, sit with these words awhile and see what they offer you. Love Shirley
Note: as I look back over these past 6 years, I realize that being in community was important. I thank God I had people walking the journey with me.
I did “sit with it” and I wrote the following in my journal:
“never reaches the end of the space
available for the divine race…”
Lord, I love these words . . .
Thank for for drawing them to me today.
The thought gives me hope.
I cannot reach the end
of what you have for me!
Perhaps there will be times when I seek you
and I wont’ be able to see through the fog.
Maybe life will make it hard
to see and feel you.
But Lord, still I will “run to you . . .
Where else can I go?
Capture me with grace.
I will follow you” **
**from the song “Rescue” which we learned and sang in choir this month.
by Jared Anderson
You are the source of life
I can’t be left behind
No one else will do
I will take hold of You
I need You Jesus, I need You Jesus
My heart is Yours for life
I need Your hand in mine
No one else will do
Lord I put my trust in You
I need You Jesus to come to my rescue
Where else can I go?
There’s no other Name by which I am saved
Capture me with grace
I will follow You
My heart is Yours for life
I need Your hand in mine
No one else will do
Lord I put my trust in You
This world has nothing for me (I will follow You)
When you wake up, you point and say “it” for each one of them until I gather up all them along with you! Then you are willing to sit and cuddle while you wake up slowly
I love these quiet moments together… just “being.”
Maybe that’s how God feels when we are willing to just sit quietly with Him – not asking anything of Him, just content to be with Him.