There are various common human experiences that touch us all, either directly or through family and friends.
Despite the universality of things like childbirth, educational milestones or loss of loved ones, those times are nonetheless supremely significant to people directly experiencing them.
We look at our own experiences or ask others for advice. We tell friends, “Call if you need anything” or “I’m sorry for your loss.” We drop off meals and offer to perform tasks that will lighten their load. We reflect on the importance of cherishing what we have and who we love.
While we wonder if we could do more, the more urgent worry is that we aren’t sure how. In the face of unfathomable grief, what is an adequate offer of assistance?
When I’m unsure of what to do, I consider things friends have done for me. Cards, messages and other gestures made me feel profoundly grateful. Such recollections help me understand it’s enough to do even a small thing. Making a call, sending an encouraging email or taking a friend to lunch is often much more than is expected.
I considered this recently while attending a funeral. The sudden nature of the death and size of the gathering was staggering. Ultimately, I was left with a new view of familiar ways we might extend grace and process grief.
The deceased was in his mid-50s. Last weekend, he was riding his bicycle and was struck by a motorist.
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The funeral took place in a high school auditorium. When that filled up, scores of additional mourners sat on folding chairs in a large space across the hall.
The queue to simply enter the auditorium snaked through the entire school and out into the parking lot. Yet while hundreds of people waited to enter, the atmosphere was mostly silent. The only snippets I caught were things like, “I just talked to him a few days ago” and “He was so full of life.”
These aren’t statements we should dissect in search of deeper meaning. Instead, the words are uttered as a way to verbally process an idea that’s still too big to accept. It’s not that we question whether people die. Rather, we need the time to reflect on how that changes the world around each of us.
Eulogies and the pastor’s sermon did an admirable job of providing varied views of the person and how his loss will change many lives.
His wife spoke about this in her own eulogy. She also said she can’t properly grieve her husband from a mindset of blame. As a result, she said the accident was an unfortunate thing that just happened because two people were on a dark road at the wrong time. She implored mourners to pray for the driver, noting that the accident changed his life, too.
While this accident wasn’t caused by carelessness or dangerous behavior, it nonetheless demonstrates a need to operate vehicles with care and caution. In general, we should remember to look at our surroundings, slow down and pay attention.