Two weeks ago for the first time in my life I had to come to terms with grief. Believe it or not, until then, at the age of 34 I still had all four of my grandparents and until about a month ago all of them were of sound mind and body. (for their ages) On the 8th my grandfather died and I had to learn to deal with genuine grief. As I’m sure you can imagine, when you are in the ministry, or you work at a church, as I have for the last 12 years, you deal with many people in the midst of grief. I have been to more funerals than I can count. Always for me I have been there as a show of support. I can’t say how many times I have been through a visitation line wondering what I would say when I get to the strangers who have lost a loved one. Usually I wind up with some form of “I’m sorry for your loss” or “I really liked and appreciated your loved one.” Many times I have walked away from that brief meeting thinking that I have wasted my time. Or worse, I wasted their time. I felt as if I offered no comfort to the family whatsoever.
However, the death of my grandfather was my first time on that side of a funeral and I learned a lot. Here are the most significant things I learned.
- Kind words mean a lot. I know that saying “I’m sorry” seems like a small thing. But what I learned is that it is not a small thing. Those words are significant.
- The food is a ministry. Several people brought food by the house, My Gramma’s church fed us a meal, and that food is a genuine ministry. Much more so than I ever realized. There is a strange comfort in eating. I guess that’s why there is a whole category of food called comfort food. Also there is a lot to be done in planning and carrying out a funeral, and lots of people coming around. Having plenty of good food on hand is one less thing to worry about. (The only observation I would make here is that there needs to be food brought to the funeral home during visitation. Five hours is a long time and some food for the family would be appreciated. I literally never thought about that until this time.)
- Grief comes in waves. I would be fine for a while, then overcome with sadness. I'm told those waves come back for a long time.
- The kindness of people is overwhelming. I was surprised at how touching it was when people pulled over for the funeral procession. The same for when people left a facebook message, or a text message, or sent a flower, or a card, or if they donated Gideon Bibles. Those things are nice acts that people don’t have to do. When they go out of their way to do them, overwhelming is the only word I can use.
To all of you who were kind to me during this period. Thank you. I mean it when I say the kindness is overwhelming.
(And a final note to the person who jumped into the procession until you made it to the YMCA, I’m so glad we could expedite your trip with a police escort. I hope you got a good workout that day.)