These are strange days. These days where we wait. These days where we see others at work, at church, at a local cafe, or just around, and we smile and say ‘hello’. In that smile there are a thousand words said but the only word spoken aloud is ‘hello’. The usual ‘how are you doing?’ or ‘how are you?’ is bitten back. Instead, there is a momentary silence, not awkward, just that there is a lingering sadness and it infiltrates. It stops words in their tracks. And looking at the other person, you know they know and that smile that said a thousand words expresses understanding. And the next words uttered are, ‘I know’. And looking closely at the other person, their eyes are slightly blood shot too, the redness betraying past tears. These days of grief are strange.
These days are strange because flatness and sadness pervade. The flatness dampens conversations, the sadness hangs over everything. Every conversation is controlled. The tears that threaten to surface are restrained with every fibre of being. The internal struggle is belied in the heaviness of our stance, in the way we hold ourselves. But with the words ‘I know’, there is permission. Permission to cry, permission not to control the words being said, permission to be real, permission to feel. And these days are strange because they are so intensely sad. And they are sad for a good reason. We are losing one who we pray for and who we partner with as she devoted herself to binding the broken-hearted in a part of the world ravaged by terrorism and war. And it is a loss that has permanence. There will be a day where we are face to face again, but it won’t be until the heavens and the earth are made new and there is life and flourishing without tears and grief. And it’s intensely sad because we have to struggle with how to say good-bye without seeing her face to face again.
These days are strange because they take courage and kindness in equal amounts. Courage to live with the sadness, courage not to fight the flatness, and courage to feel the heart-break without it overwhelming us. And kindness that gives ourselves permission to feel sad. Because it is through allowing ourselves to feel sad that the pain will begin to heal and a scar begin to form. Not allowing ourselves to feel out of discomfort, out of fear of the sadness overwhelming, or not knowing how to deal with the pain, will stop every emotion – even joy. And the temptation is to try escaping the sadness, by trying to make ourselves feel better, by drowning the sadness out with the frivolous. But there are no short-cuts and escapes from this, however we might try. The challenge of these strange days is to have courage to feel, to pour out how we are feeling to the Lord of our sadness, and to allow others to feel the depths of their sadness too.
These days are strange because while sadness lingers, we smile and we laugh. Because while the sadness lingers, and while we know that there is nothing okay about the aggressiveness and ravages of cancer, the courageous and passionate life for whom we grieve is one of faithfulness and endurance. She loves our Lord, she stands in our Father’s grace and mercy, and so there is joy in our lingering sadness.