No Grace Given
Last night we stood in line to pay our respects to the Scott Harbison family on the loss of their middle child, Trent. Trent, only 20, passed away suddenly of an overnight extended seizure. And of the last six funerals and/or viewings we've attended, he was the fifth young person. In the last ten years, we've grieved our dear, dear friend Greg Makcen (mid-40's). And just before him, Judy, a dear Christian lady (mid-40's) who died of heart failure. Since then, it's been a 9 year friend of Kathryn's who had a brain stem tumor, a young Spanish student of mine who accidentally shot himself while cleaning a gun, another self-inflicted gunshot death, a baby who lived seven minutes. We've attended a few elderly people's services sprinkled in here and there, but just a few.
Everything in me tenses up before/during these 'young' services. As you know, there can be a general sense of rejoicing, relief, bittersweet nostalgia that happens around the services of the elderly (at least the Christian elderly). But it's at the 'young' services where there is more of the sounds that haunt you for months. More of the questions, more of the tears, more of the unnaturalness that rides on the shoulders of the parents who have to bury their children. The grief comes and rides in waves of tears, or in the dumbstruck look on the young children's faces who are close to the family. Or in sudden moments of laughter when something amusing is recalled on the surface of such dark emotions.
I spoke with a friend of mine yesterday (who doesn't know the family at all.) We talked about the mind-game that an observer to these tragedies can fall into. It looks something like, "I just can't imagine what they're going through" and "I keep thinking about how I would handle this" and "What if it were my child?" This friend had gone to a child's funeral (her first 'young' one) and had to leave before the service even started. Because of her grief for the child's mother, her friend? No, because she had lived through the possibilities of it happening to her so completely there in the pew that she couldn't be in the building. This is such a natural, human response. How do we stay in the valley with someone, weeping with those who weep, comforting without sinking into this mind-game?
I'd love to hear any tips you have for these kind of moments. I have only one that I lean on- a life-saying that I chant into my soul in those lines, that I speak into my heart on the pillow. In the moments when prayer for the hurting turns into worry for the future.
"GOD DOES NOT GIVE GRACE FOR THE IMAGINATION!"
God is granting to the Harbison family the grace to follow Him through this very dark valley. He is not giving that to me. God walked beside my friend when she found her son dead. He is not walking through my mental picture of that. God held my friend's hand when she held her sweet dead baby. He is not holding mine when I imagine holding mine in such a moment. It's been a relief to find I don't HAVE to feel what they're feeling to give a hug, to send a card, to call them up and let them give me the 'unedited' version of their day. And when something tragic happens to us, and someone says, "I just can't imagine...," we can say, knowing that we are receiving His unique grace, "Don't try."