Suffering and Love
I’m circling like a buzzard in a parking lot at a funeral home. I need a place with plenty of space. (I have depth perception issues.) My pastor invites me to park behind him. Instant relief.
I get out of the car and a young woman approaches, greeting me with a hug. The granddaughter of the one who has passed away. She feels like family and guides me through the crowd, introducing me to her grandfather.
I view the body, hug the teenage daughter sniffling at the casket, find friends, and take a seat.
My eyes stay on the daughter, who hangs around the casket. It’s as though she does not want to leave her mother who had a massive heart attack and died.
I know the girl, not the mother.
The girl already knows plenty about suffering. Now, this.
A little about the girl: She is a beauty. I see her as an artist who feels comfortable with adults, has lived through some caterpillar years (who hasn’t?), changed schools, and became a butterfly. She definitely has a gift as a make-up artist and hairdo expert. No training, so I call it a gift. I hear she can also play guitar by ear.
Now she is left with her dad, aunt, grandparents, friends. She is left with a room full of people who knew her mother. Clearly, she is not totally alone, but she may feel lost without her mother. I think of Bambi. I think of my own mother.
There is no apathy here.
Feelings rise and tears flow.
It makes me aware of how we are all one body. We belong to each other. We are one in a heart-broken world, never knowing who we’ll lose next. And every death has a rippling effect, touching many.
I usually see the brokenness in my church, where tear-stained people stand side by side in sufferings.
I hear the sobbing of the girl’s grandparents who have lost their girl.
My stomach sinks. I cannot imagine losing a child. I know other pains, not the loss of a child.
They are broken, beyond broken.
How do we hold space for all the brokenness in this room, this country, this world? How do we hold space for it and not have fear? So many little deaths. How do we hold them and not fight?
The only way I know is the way of the cross. I have to give it over to Jesus, the Savior.
I look around at those seated near me. On my left is the girl’s Sunday School teacher, who loves deeply and keeps a joke up her sleeve; also, the husband-wife team who teach youth on Wednesday night and “mother” the girl at church. And on my right, the one who always smiles and keeps hands open to hug and serve.
No pew in here holds the rich or powerful. The pews here hold friends and family.
The girl has now taken a seat on the front row.
The people carry stories of the woman in the casket, stories of the girl. Stories of love. Not shared publicly, but carried in their hearts, their bones.
The ways of the world are about impressing someone. The ways of love take me right to the cross where love and suffering go together.
I didn’t know if I’d come to the funeral today or not. I had other things going, and it’s a thirty minute drive to town. But I kept my eyes on the clock. The Holy Spirit, nudging me.
I hurriedly dressed and left the house. As I drove past the cemetery, I noticed a fresh grave being dug. I said a little prayer for the family who would be gathering there soon.
Sometimes it’s inconvenient to love. It’s an interruption, an inconvenience.
We suffer. We suffer and bear someone else’s burden by coming to a funeral.
Some folks might not believe that, but I do.
Suffering and love. I was raised in it, so I’m a big believer.
Comment section is below the photo of the cemetery.
Photo by Pat Durmon of the Arkana Cemetery on Hwy 201 in Arkana, Arkansas, October 12, 2017.