Memorial flowers 8-14

Memorial flowers for my uncle, d. 8/3/14.

The wife of my mentor passed away last week. She battled a rare form of pancreatic cancer that spread to her lungs and elsewhere. At one point, the treatment seemed worse than the ailment, as reported by my mentor on Facebook. She’s the second death this year of someone very close to a dear friend. It’s a strange thing to experience grief from the sidelines when those close to us lose a loved one. I cannot say my life is changed, other than when I make an attempt to support my friend. Even those moments feel insignificant in the aftershocks of their loss. Yet, what is the strength of a support network if not in each point of connection; every card, phone call and empathetic comment posted online?

Witnessing another’s grief brought out something in how we make attempts to comfort and console. The words we use to express tempered anguish just don’t address the pain, and often fall short of either comfort or consolation. I’m sorry for your loss tends to be the most genuine statement. Any more words than that can sometimes even be harmful. To say their soul is with Jesus may be a true statement, but then what do we say about the body? To say they were a saint passes over trials and shortfalls that got them there. Really, though, who are we to sum up a person’s life at the end?

As Christians, especially, we need a new liturgy for remembering people who pass from this life to the next. We need language that addresses the grief, rather than deflecting and focusing on just the positive points of a person’s life. We need to be able to mourn the hole left by this particular person, here. And if there is only a small tear, let’s mourn that. We need to acknowledge our own mortality, and to reflect on our own lives to ask if we are connecting with those around us in meaningful ways…today, while it is still today. After all, the next bouquet could be your own.