Maybe it springs from our own deep need to protect ourselves when we know we cannot.
When a tragedy happens of some kind, especially the loss of a son or friend to a kind of accidental death, it is our nature to jump to working at meaning-making. When someone is lost to old age, or even long-term illness, there are many bedside conversations that make space for meaning to be made.
I am sorry for this.
I want you to know this.
I wish we had this.
I want us to do this.
You mean this to me.
You taught me this.
You are loved.
But when an accident happens, or a sudden death, or a suicide, or a crime…
There is no time for words to fill the space.
No hands touching hands.
No way to know they know.
And so we end up stuck on this side of the sleep, trying our damnedest to make sense of the whole thing. We look into every question we could possibly ask to make meaning, and there is none to be found. Often those closest to the loss are stuck spinning in the losing itself, until they can solve it, keep it from having ever happened, get those last words in.
Which of course, proves meaningless as well.
And then there are the onlookers among us, tucking our children in at night, kissing our spouse, patting our buddies on the back, and wondering what we would ever do if we were to lose them.
That’s when we find ourselves making the loss a lesson, as if that makes it worth happening. As if it protects us from it happening to us or those we love. We begin to talk about how “it has taught us …”
And there is an illusion to our nature of doing this that suggests there is meaning as long as we learn something from it. If we make a tragic loss a lesson, it won’t be meaningless anymore.
But I don’t want my dead son, spouse, buddy to be a lesson; I want them to be my son, spouse, buddy. We want lives to be meaningful, not deaths. We want to say their names and images of life, not tragedy, to be conjured up. And when they are gone, especially when I didn’t have time to make meaning with them, I want to grieve. And I want them to be remembered for what their lives taught others, not their meaningless, untimely, horribly tragic death.
The meaning is in remembering who they were.
The grief is in losing them to begin with.
The loss is a loss.
It is not things as they should be.
It is before all things are made new.
There is, however, meaning in remembering.
And grief is not our enemy, but a sign that we have hearts full of love and woven with connection.
In our caring for the greiving, may we, like our God, be close to those whose hearts are breaking.
Breaking hearts are not a lesson; they are breaking hearts.
And they, in themselves, are worth all the world.
Pine Tree Dr.