Making Room for Lament: SheLoves — September 2017

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In the months from April to August of this year, we have attended five funerals and sent a eulogy to be read at a sixth. These were services of worship and remembrance, held in honor of people we loved, people whose lives intersected with ours regularly, even when those lives were very short.

It began with my mom’s death on the 19th of April after a 7-year journey through dementia. At the end of May, we dealt with the shock of an accidental drowning — a 2-year-old grandson in our extended congregational family. That death was followed about five weeks later by the loss of a dear woman friend and leader in our community. She died only 7 months after an abrupt diagnosis of stage 4 cancer.

The week we came back from vacation in early August, we attended an emotional farewell for a dear 8-year-old boy who was born with only half a heart, and whose life had a lasting impact on our entire city. At the end of that same week, we listened to parts of a life story we had never heard, as we said good-bye to a faithful woman in our congregation who passed away at the age of 105. In the middle of last month, I received news of the anticipated death of a former colleague and partner in ministry who had a heart attack and a brain bleed while in the physical therapist’s clinic. We traveled 100 miles south to be there for his stunned widow and adult children.

I suppose I should not be surprised that the most self-descriptive word I can come up with these days is, ‘weary.’ Although I ‘do not grieve as those who have no hope,’ I grieve nonetheless. I don’t think I have begun to fully internalize all the facets of my mom’s death, what it means to be an orphan in this world. That truth tells me that there is even less space inside to grieve well for each of the other losses which have left such huge holes in our lives.

So the words I want to amplify in this particular season are the beautiful and necessary words of lament. Those words that speak the pain in us out into the atmosphere, those words that call us to be fully human, acknowledging that it sometimes hurts to be alive when others are no longer breathing beside us. I want to make space inside — and outside — for the tears that bring healing, tears that tell stories, tears that say, “I loved them and I can no longer whisper that truth into their ears.”

So let me say this as loudly and as clearly as written space in an e-magazine will allow: lament is required when we walk through the valley. Imagine that I am using my big-girl, outdoor voice when you read those words, will you? Because this is important: there is no such thing as loss without pain and suffering. The bromides and clichés that are too often bandied about at such times are less than useless. In fact, they can be harmful. People do not want to hear about “God’s plan” when they are in shock, when they are completely exhausted and empty, when they don’t know how they are going to get through the next hour, much less the next year. . . 

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Comments

  1. Elaine Reed says:

    A great part of my lament was while my mother was still technically alive. She had several strokes and then went into a coma that lasted a year. It was not as physically hard as caring for and dealing with a parent with dementia. But seeing her there hooked up to all those tubes was like not having her there at all. It felt so unjust that she should end her life in such a degrading state. There was no counseling about treatment, removal of tubes etc. Because of the insurance arrangement and my father’s misunderstanding about DNR, whenever she developed bad coughing spells etc., she was rushed from the nursing home to a hospital for treatment. This happened numerous times, until someone explained the correct DNR to my father. I felt guilty and emotionally victimized and helpless, kind of in the middle with nowhere to turn. Now I would know much better how to cope and to get help. When she died, the family and church rallied round to celebrate her life. That was a great comfort to me.

    That is a beautiful and appropriate photo that you included. Thank you for a chance to express lamentations.

    • Oh, Elaine! That kind of grief is so very difficult. I am sorry! Please release any guilt to God’s safe-keeping, friend. I am glad the church behaved like a church for her service. Your lament is welcome here.

      • Elaine Reed says:

        Thank you Diana, for your understanding. I don’t think I ever gave written expression to those feelings before.