“By night, we hasten, in darkness, to search for living water, only our thirst leads us onward, only our thirst leads us onward.” ~ Teresa of Avila
It has been a surreal year or two. First my great auntie died. Then my dad’s best friend. Next was my dad’s cousin. Then my father-in-law, followed a few months later by my dear granny**. Now this morning my dad rings me, sounding rather desperate, and with a catch in his throat gives me the news that his sister-in-law, my auntie, died unexpectedly in the night. My poor uncle. It seems worse when it’s unexpected. My dad’s on his way to see his brother.
“…when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where [the king sits] at dinner on a winter’s day… In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a moment of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came…”
Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of England
8th Century AD
Life seems so solid, so certain when we’re young. In adulthood it can overnight seem as fragile and as fleeting as a butterfly. What can we do – those of us who are left? What can we do to offer comfort to those in grief? In the famous sermon on the mount, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4, NRSVA
Or, as The Message puts it: “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”
But what does this mean, in reality? Doesn’t it sound rather harsh to tell someone who is grieving that it’s all ok because now you can get closer to God? For those of us who have a strong faith, we do reach out to God and we do find comfort in our sorrow. But for those outside the flock a bible verse on its own is not much practical use and may well sound like platitudes, or an excuse to not do something ourselves.
I believe that the verses above are made true in us. I believe that God’s promises are made true in us. We are the body of Christ, you and me. Don’t worry – none of us are any better at it than anyone else. We’re all a bunch of muppets, as my old pastor used to say But that is where grace comes in; when we allow God to work in us and through us, we can truly be God’s hands and feet. Through our thoughts and words and actions our friends and family, indeed everyone around us, can know the Living God.
Jesus said “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Matthew 10:29-31 (NRSVA)
Dear Lord, thank you for your words of hope and comfort.
Thank you for your gift of peace.
May we bring your presence to those who mourn.
Give us the courage to say what needs to be said,
to do what you need us to do.
We are nothing without you.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
**Addendum (23/10/14) I forgot to mention that in the past few months, my mother’s cousin also died and my husband’s aunt and uncle. The latter two were well into their 90s and very frail, so that was not unexpected. With my mother’s cousin, however, I was the only one on our side of the family who knew he was very ill, apparently. It came as a shock to my parents. I just assumed they knew. What a year.