I’m finding myself getting older. I think this is typical of all people.
As I get older, I am noticing some things about myself that I’m very relieved to see. Particularly, I am finding myself much, much more compassionate than I ever thought I could be. As a younger person, I always thought that compassion was aligned with weakness, and, even more often, compassion aligned with spoiling. I thought that having compassion for someone was the equivalent of letting them “get away with murder.” Even though I was concerned about being too compassionate, and even though I could never dream of wearing my heart on my sleeve, I always envied those friends of mine who so easily knew how to comfort someone with their grace and compassion.
As I spend time with children every day, I am able to find what I consider to be a realistic compassion – a balance of loving and caring deeply for my students without letting them do whatever they want. But there is more to compassion that I wish to understand and demonstrate – I want to empathize and feel the pain of others, and I want to learn how to comfort them.
As a child, it felt like hardly anyone ever died. I remember a few people dying when I was young: Miss Reba, who was like a surrogate grandmother to me when my family moved to Mississippi, died when I was nine. This was my first experience with death, and I was not fond. However, it seemed like it was her time to go, and although I missed her greatly, I grieved through dwelling in the nice memories of her. Then, when I was 11, my real grandmother died, and I understood devastation. I ached for my Granny, but even more so, I ached for my mommy, who lost her mommy. Ever since, I’ve tried to imagine what life would be like without my mom or dad to prepare myself for the horror that is sure to come, but it just seems impossible. I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a parent.
Later, friends of friends died. I’ve never had a close personal friend pass away, but many of my friends have. This is where I get so uncomfortable. I long to be there for my friends as they are aching, but I just can’t seem to figure out what to say or do. It makes me seem terribly insensitive.
And recently, it seems that there has been a lot of death. Several friends have lost babies, either stillborn or miscarried. Friends’ parents and grandparents have passed away. A friend lost his three year old nephew. Those children in Connecticut were murdered at school. Two different friends have had friends who pass away in tragic car accidents. And just today, a famous pastor who I greatly respect lost his son to suicide.
I feel selfish that I am so heartbroken about these deaths. They are not “my” deaths. I haven’t met the loved ones who have passed on, and yet I feel a tender care and aching tragedy over the deaths. I am still so uncomfortable as I try to figure out what these people need as they face these hard times. I try to put myself in their shoes: how would I feel? What would I want people to say to me? And my mind is blank. It isn’t about me, and yet I cannot figure out what I should do to make it about the loved one.
I am reminded of song lyrics and scripture that I’ve used when things have been difficult for me, but I can’t imagine bringing those up to hurting people. They sound so…preachy. What right do I have, when the loss isn’t mine, to tell others what they should be thinking about?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. – James 1:2-3
“When darkness seems to win, we know the pain reminds this heart that this is not, this is not our home.” – Laura Story, Blessings
“What if my greatest disappointments and the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?” – Laura Story, Blessings
All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28
Thinking of someday when we all go Home: “One day Love will wear the crown, one day Love will set us free, hands up high and faces down, angels teaching us to sing, He will be King!” – The Great Day, Music Inspired by the Story
“If this is where my story ends, just give me one last breath to say, ‘Hallelujah!'” – Broken Praise, Music Inspired by the Story
(In fact, that whole Job song is quite the doozy when you are facing pains of life.)
Anyway, this post wasn’t really supposed to provide clarity, it was mostly just thoughtfulness about handling situations with death. If you have comments to help, such as what people do want to hear when they are facing these difficult times, I’d love to hear them.