Everyday Encounter with God

Pastor Sylvia's Encounters with God in the Midst of Everyday Life


Another Season of Tragedies

Summer has arrived and the local news is already reporting unexpected leisure-activity deaths. One moment life is fun; the next moment life isn’t.

As a chaplain I’ve learned that no one knows exactly what to say. Sometimes there aren’t words to comfort others, like to the writer of this Reddit plea: “My friend just died. I don’t know what to do.”

My friend Mike sent me one of the responses because it might change how we look at life and death. It’s worth sharing with you.

“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, mom, teachers, mentors, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents…

“I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to ‘not matter’. I don’t want it to be something that just passes.

“My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had with that person. When the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can continue to live and to love.

“Scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was, and they’re only ugly to people who can’t see clearly.

“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of wreckage and hang on for awhile. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s another person floating beside you.

“For a while, all you can do is breathe.

“At first the waves are 100-feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, the waves are still 100-feet tall, but they come farther apart. They still wipe you out, but in between you can breathe, you can function.

“You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything… and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

“Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80- feet tall. Or 50-feet tall. And they come farther apart. You can usually see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can prepare yourself. And when they wash over you, you know that somehow you’ll come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

“Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn you’ll survive them. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

Thank you, Mike for sending this wise man’s words.