“Human lives are hard, even those of health and privilege, and don’t make much sense. This is the message of the Book of Job: Any snappy explanation of suffering you come up with will be horseshit. God tells Job, who wants an explanation for all his troubles, “You wouldn’t understand.”
We’ve talked a lot at our house about death and dying this week. So that’s been terrible.
My son goes to school with twins. Their father died suddenly of a heart attack. The mortality of first-grade parents is not a subject anyone is comfortable tackling.
Can my dad die of a heart attack? Yes, I suppose anyone could. But he goes to the doctor and takes pills to make that less likely.
Can dogs have heart attacks? I guess. But it’s not that common.
Is his dog sad he’s gone? I’m sure she is.
Are my friends sad? Yes, they are.
Why did he die? I don’t know.
Can I have some chocolate? Not now. You’ll spoil your supper.
A family in my sister’s neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, “Dear God, that family needs grace.” She replied firmly, “That family needs casseroles,” and proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this IS grace.
― Elizabeth Gilbert
The funeral was this morning. A group of parents from school sat together. We want to be supportive. We have, in fact, made a lot of casseroles.
A group of teachers and administrators were there. They’ve helped all the other first graders make cards for their friends. They’re talking to them about how to be kind when the twins come back to school.
The hard truth is that the truth is hard. There is a hole where a dad, husband, friend and coach used to be. We can’t fill it. This family has to feel bad until they don’t.
It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.
There was a time when I tried to make sense of things like this. I’ve given that up. None of it will ever make sense.
It’s a wretched thing that happened. The only consolation we can offer is our presence and to try to notice God’s presence in this.
We’ve committed to help smooth over the rough edges. We’ll show up with an extra set of hands and feet whenever they need us. We’ll give them space to grieve and pray for comfort.
We’ll remember the good stuff, and we’ll laugh together. We will learn again the gift of amazing grace.
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.