Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Encouraging words...

Yesterday I went to a funeral. A co-worker's wife passed away last week after a 10 year bout with cancer.

Having lost my first wife to cancer 12 years ago, I wanted to lend support, but I felt inadequate. However, I've learned not to let a sense of inadequacy stop me, so I went. An old hymn says, "We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling..."

My friend had told me six months ago that his wife's cancer had returned. We talked a bit, I gave him a hug and offered my "encouraging" words. At the reception, after the funeral, my friend informed someone that my words back then had helped him. What profundity had I shared? I had simply said, "It sucks."

Helping someone die is difficult. Watching your best friend and true love slowly evaporate sucks. It just does.

But then it ends. Death arrives and sorrow fully invades.

"Today is the worst day of my life. Don, just tell me everything's going to be okay." These were my friend's words just before the grave-side portion of the funeral as we hugged. I'm no liar... I paused... and I said in his ear, "Everything's going to be okay."

Life goes on. The worst day ends. New days come. Pain fades to ache.

Love never ends. Memories last. But eventually, everything is okay.

Those who have been bereaved unknowingly become members of what I call, "the fraternity of the broken-hearted." It's co-ed.

Encouraging words most often flow from a sense of compassion and care. Compassion is born through personal suffering.

The light of encouragement shines out not through the beautiful stained glass of our accomplishments, but the light of encouragement shines out through the cracks of our shattered humanity. A broken heart can be a good lamp.

I have believed... therefore I have spoken. God is good, but sometimes, life sucks.


  1. What a great post for anyone who is suffering loss (which we all do go through at some point and on more than one occasion). I love the line: God is good, but sometimes life sucks. That's what my catechism kids need to understand; they equate the two unequatables. I think they will understand your succinct way of separating them. Thanks.

  2. This is an important and moving post for anyone who has experienced a loss. I love your line "a broken heart can be a good lamp". Your heart is evident in this post. You are clearly a wonderful friend to this poor man. God bless you for your understanding and compassion.

    Thanks Don for poetically "jamming" with me today! I really like your suggestion for my poem. I value your judgment. Enjoy your day!

  3. thanks for sharing. life is takes us down roads we would rather not travel. they are painful. and yes, God is good, and yes, sometimes, life just sucks.

  4. The last few years or so it seemed appropriate for me to tell some grieving people that they have entered "the great fellowship" and that God himself belongs, by experience, to this fellowship.
    You wrote some really good stuff here.

  5. @Elizabeth: I looked at your profile. Thanks for the comment. I hope this post sparks some good conversation in your catechism (CCD?) groups.

    @SeptemberMom: Thanks for the comment. Strange how certain lines "jump" out a bit, and different lines to different people. (Sometimes different lines to the same person at a different point in life.) Glad you liked the poem suggestion on Water Therapy. (I dreamed I had toddlers last night -- everyone was waiting for me to get out of bed. I enjoy reading about your adventures with your young family.)

    @CIS: I agree with you, Life does sometimes take us down roads (painful roads) that we'd rather not travel. If life is a school, we don't always get to pick the curriculum, but we need to trust the Headmaster's judgment. Thanks for commenting.

    @Dennis: Many of us want to know God, but we forget Paul's words... "That I may know Him, and the fellowship of His sufferings..." As you note, God too is in the fellowship of the broken-hearted. I'm guessing the recent anniversary of your dad's death resurfaced some of the mourning and remembrances? And perhaps too, some new consolations.

  6. Yup. God is good, but sometimes life sucks. And I'm prety sure He wishes more than anything that it didn't have to be that way.

  7. @Saphron: "The cup that that Father gives, shall I not drink it?" One of the mysteries of life that heaven will solve is the "Why?" of suffering. The Son gave us the proper focus, not on the cup of suffering, but the trustworthy source of that cup. The Father's heart is good, and one day, when He explains Himself, no one will object.