Thursday, December 4, 2014

Reflections on Isaiah 35:1

I had the privilege to speak at one of our Celebrations of Life programs in Sebring and presented what I hoped would be a comforting, healing message. This passage might seem a bit odd for a memorial type of program, but I really believe it speaks to the many issues of grief and bereavement. First, a bit of background on my life. When I was 10, my father died. He had a coronary thrombosis. The whole sequence of event surrounding his death sent our family into a terrible tailspin. Hospice care was not even a flicker in America at that time (1964). Hospice care was 20 years away at that time. So, families were left to their own ways to handle grief. My grief ‘counsel’ was “Brave boys don’t cry”, and “You are now the man of the house”. What a heavy burden to place on a 10 year old’s shoulders! It took me until I was 30 to come to grips with the mourning aspect of my father’s death. As Alan Wolfelt reminds us, mourning is grief gone public. I never mourned, never wept over his death. In fact, by the time I was 30 my emotions were so bound up with pain when the month of May came that I wished that the 24th could be erased from the calendar. So, I met with a counselor friend of mine who advised that I write a letter to my father expressing whatever came to mind. What an awkward thing that was … at first. I remember beginning the letter, “Dear Dad”… But, I also remember how I closed the letter, “I give you permission to die.” I then went to my home and read the letter aloud to my wife and as I did, the grief and pain gushed forth from within me like a tidal way. The little boy, who was told to be brave, was now a man who did cry. What a necessary catharsis this was for me. After 30 more years of life, I honor my father’s life and his contributions to the family and to me. With this background in mind, I shared my thoughts on Isaiah 35:1. The desert experience reminds me of our grief experience in several ways: a. The desert is a place of Exhaustion. The journey of grief is exhausting mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. b. The desert is a place of Thirst. As people thirst for water to quench this need for hydration, those in grief thirst for comfort, peace, and normalcy. c. The desert if a place of Mirage. People in a desert see things that aren’t there. In the grief experience there are times when we think we see the end of our pain only to experience what Wolfelt calls a grief bomb. And, we are reminded of the challenges in our journey. Thankfully, in 2014 we have hospice to provide support during the patient’s illness and after the patient’s death to provide bereavement support. Hospice’s time is now. People are hurting. We are here to lend a hand of support.

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