Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Good Grief!

I wish that we were like other races and cultures. I wish we didn’t get so awkward about the “death” word. I think I almost wish that people would say the wrong thing rather than say nothing at all.

I opted to go into work today. There are a lot of things that won’t wait until I feel in a more positive frame of mind. Life doesn’t stop and wait for you to catch up.

Inevitably the question about what you did over Easter was bandied about. People asking it couldn’t know that it was like a landmine to me. I thought, once or twice, about mumbling something vague and indistinct, but it seemed the coward’s way out. They had asked so they ought to be prepared for the answer.

I explained about the hospital visits, the illness of my sister, and finished with the rather bleak pronouncement that she had died at the weekend.

What a conversation stopper!

I felt obliged to justify my presence in school. It was easier to have distractions around me, and tasks to keep me occupied, or I would have just brooded at home. There would be days off to come with a funeral to attend, and I wasn’t sure just how much compassionate leave I was entitled to.

We just don’t seem to know how to deal with someone else’s grief. So often we are afraid of saying the wrong thing that we say nothing at all. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that we don’t know how to express that we do.

It was at the end of the day when I finally bumped into a lady I was deliberately avoiding. I was feeling fragile and knew that in her presence I would start to cry. She is not the kind of person that says nothing. She doesn’t say the wrong thing, or particularly the right thing, but she emanates compassion. We hugged. I cried. She held me and patted me on the back. I worried that people who didn’t know about my sister’s death were looking on curiously. She let me talk about how I was feeling without making it seem all very awkward.

I just wish that there were more people like my friend.

My brother, Richard, was present when my sister died. We had all gone home. Joe and I were due to travel back to Inverness the following day. We didn’t think that the end was so close, although all the signs were there if we had looked for them. Throughout the week, every time the nurses or doctors needed to do something, we had been asked to leave. On that final day, they had just worked around us, never asking us to leave the room.

Richard was asked how he had known that this was the end, when all of us seemed so oblivious. He replied that our problem was our faith. We had always expected the miracle to happen. We had never stopped praying. We had never accepted that her death was inevitable. Faith says that there is always hope. He admitted that he envied us that kind of faith, but to him, reality said that things were not going to improve for Linda. He had been preparing himself for weeks for it to happen.

His daughter was with him when my sister died. She was amazed that he didn’t cry. She asked him why he didn’t cry when Linda died, but had wept buckets when the family’s hamster had died. He replied that he had done all his crying over the last few weeks, so that he could be strong for the rest of the family.

A friend asked me recently how I felt about God. Did my sister’s death diminish my faith in God in any way? I don’t pretend to understand the workings of the Almighty, what he permits, what he allows, why he steps in to intervene sometimes, but seems absent at other times.

I know that I have allowed God access to my heart at all times. At three in the morning I have wept buckets. I have tried to picture where Linda might be now, to feel a sense of her presence, somewhere.

I think there are times that I would like to descend into an almighty sulk at God for not intervening, but my spirit refuses to cooperate – hence the poem!


Pilgrim, though the night is dark
Dawn is on its way
And with it comes the radiant sun
All shadows melt away

Pilgrim, though the heart is sore
And tears so often fall
With soft and gentle tender touch
I’ll wipe away them all

Pilgrim, though you cannot see
The joy that’s yet to be
I ask that you would simply trust
All that you know of Me

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