“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” C.S.Lewis in A Grief Observed
I’m a bit of an eclectic reader, so I’m not surprised that I picked up a book that I knew might depress me. It turned out to be one hard read.
Only Spring is the journal of a father who lost two sons: one to suicide at the age of 22 and the other to leukemia at age 6. You can only imagine the pain that bled through each page.
At different times throughout the book I asked myself, why am I reading about this parent’s worst nightmare? After several chapters I realized I needed to know. I needed to know how this Dad survived spiritually, emotionally, and mentally through his anguish. I wanted to know. I attached to the author’s agony and ached to see him through.
This morning, I awoke before the alarm and reflected on trudging through Only Spring. I discovered it held a certain purpose. This memoir offered me a deeper understanding of loss that I would soon engage in ways I could not anticipate. For this day our dear folks at my church would say good-bye to a vibrant, generous, thoughtful, and most Christ-like Jesus follower, Don Rinehart.
A few days ago, Don cheered on his beloved Ashland University women’s basketball team with Ohio rival, University of Findlay. During the game at the U. of F. gymnasium, his vision became blurry and he experienced some dizziness.
An urgent trip to the hospital revealed that an aneurism had invaded Don’s brain with a vengeance. A few hours earlier Don was a man of remarkable health, suddenly he could not survive without a life support machine. Artificial support was removed yesterday. Around 4 am. on this Lord’s day, Don breathed his last breath.
Tragically, Don’s death is one of many recent losses for our congregation. A brutal season of grief ushers in 2016 for Park Street Brethren. Three funerals were held for church members’ families just this past week.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers: Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love. It would be wrong to try to find a substitute. We must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation. For the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bond between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap. God does not fill it, but on the contrary, God keeps it empty and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with one another, even at the cost of pain.
Hopefully I came to worship today with at least a drop of consolation in an ocean of deep sadness. Perhaps I offered a richer gift of empathy to my friends because I spent a little time with a difficult book.
Wish I could do more, but that’s all I got. I hang on to Mother Teresa’s words:
We can do no great things, only small things with great love.