|My Brother and Me, Trout Fishing by Norris Dam,|
on the Morning of My Wedding, 07/15/07
It's difficult to know what to say to a grief-stricken someone, and just when you think you've gotten it figured out, you realize the very thing that works for most everyone is hurtful to a lone somebody.
Maybe "I'm so sorry for your pain" is as close to a safe bet as you're going to get.
But I recommend praying up, letting the Lord direct your words...or your absence of words, as the case may be. I have a friend, Christy, who's gifted in grief ministry because she cries every, single time she looks into the crying eyes of someone she loves. And, sometimes, crying alongside is the perfect thing. No words necessary.
Whatever you do or say, don't expect thanks. Because--after times of darkest grief--it can be difficult to remember which people Christ used to sustain, and how. As I've already shared, I wrote down some of the good while I was in the pit, and I'm so glad, because I don't think I would remember much of it, now, also because--now, when I can see, and think, more clearly--the words I wrote during that time help me celebrate how lovingly God carried me.
To depart just a little, have you ever heard an actor comment on being only as good as his last picture? I've discovered: I have to be careful not to think the Lord only as good as how I view His performance in the current drama of my life. I found it easy to judge the forgetful Israelites, who--despite having been delivered from slavery and having seen miracles--whine and wish to return to Egypt. Until my humbling realization that I'd been behaving like an Israelite.
These days, I fight to see the big picture, and I wage war on fear, but--I'll be honest--fear is my Achilles' Heel. I can very easily become paralyzed by fear: especially as pertaining to my son, who goes on vacation with his dad and/or his dad's family for a week at a time, several times a year. I've not yet been able to get past Day #5 without turning into a crazy nutbar. (I'll never be able to write about it better than I did, here.) I know my fear stems, at least in part, from what's happened to my brother and other young people whom I've known to grow sickly, or die suddenly.
Sometimes, when I talk about the fear I experience while Cade's away for a long stretch of time, people interpret my fear as stemming from an issue with my ex-husband, which annoys me because they don't know how hard he and I work at our relationship.
Other times, mothers of children older than mine tell me they felt as I do, now, when their children were younger but that, as time's passed, they've grown in faith and fearlessness. I can't figure out whether they're trying to encourage me that I'll experience less fear in the future, or demonstrate that my faith's lesser than theirs, but my first, inward response is always anger, and, every time, I find myself thinking something along the lines of: "You pathetic twit! Are you sure you haven't gotten too confident that nothing terrible will happen to your child(ren)? Because Job was a whole lot more righteous than you, and look at what happened to his kids."
Then I pray. I ask God's forgiveness for thinking such mean thoughts about someone who was probably only trying to be helpful, and I ask His continued protection over the other mother's child(ren). Because, in truth, I don't want her to live with fear anything like mine.
Finally, a thing with which I struggle is praying "Thy will be done" regarding an issue close to my heart. If God's will involves continued pain for my brother, I can't say, without hesitation, that I want His will.
I suspect that, as time passes, I will leave these particular struggles behind and take up new ones.
As for my brother's future, I hear things, sometimes, as--in fits of restlessness--I move in and out of dreams. I see things, sometimes, in the little church where I've found acceptance, and love. On one occasion I raced to the altar, threw myself there, and asked God to speak into my heart that what I'd seen was real.
And I felt God whisper, in His wordless way, "Yes," as His breath crossed the raw, wild-beating part of my heart where no one lives, save my babies...and my little brother: the baby I loved, very first.
(I'll keep you posted.)