That Saturday evening, we received the news as I was preparing for bed and thinking about Sunday services. Then we got the call. I knew it was true, but I was hoping I misunderstood it: I did not. I had to say it out loud several times to get it to sink in. Then, as I was packing to drive to Florida, I had to speak out loud why I was packing: our son was dead.
One of the first thoughts I had as the shock of his death began to go away was that I needed to recognize that grief is my new companion. It will be my companion from now on and I have a lot to learn. But I also have time. This new traveling companion is one I did not ask for or desire, but here it is.
That is where I want to dwell, in the love that is a bit more poignant now. To embrace the love I have, the love he had, the love of a God who mourns with us.
After two and a half weeks I returned to the office and preached on Pentecost Sunday. I needed that. I needed to return to my faith community. I needed to be with those who have become a people who truly do grieve when others grieve and celebrate when others are joyful (Romans 12:15). They cannot walk this road for me, but they are willing to walk it with me.
I needed to stand at the altar and remember that “with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven” we share this sacred meal. As members of the Communion of Saints, Stephen and all who have gone before share with us in the heavenly banquet – ours here on earth being the foreshadowing of the fullness found at the heavenly table where Christ is host.
I stand at the altar, speaking a prayer I have prayed for almost 32 years. This act provides me an image of Easter, of light perpetual, of a day when we will all be at that one table with our Lord as the host.
After 32 years of ministry and being a social worker for a few years before that, I understand that grief is the result of love. If I did not love I would not grieve. So, when I grieve I must remember it is because I love. Grief tells me that someone I love is no longer here: someone I love. But not just someone, a child of mine.
I choose to see grief and love as having some sort of relationship. This is why I do not fight grief as a companion.