Question: A friend’s loved one passed away, what can I do?

Am always very sorry to hear of loved ones passing, especially if it was unexpected. As many people as there are in the family affected by a sudden loss, there are as many ways for friends to extend support and comfort them. In my family, everyone took it a little differently. Some were very private about it. Another more open with their grief. Some slid into depression. Some buried themselves in work. Everyone processes differently and there is no “proper” way about it. Hopefully amongst the close friends and family there isn’t any comments about how one “should” feel or act a certain way. We need to be gracious to each other with regards to how each person might be coping.

I found that generally, because each person might appreciate different gestures of comfort, you almost need to ask them what would work for them….but not in a broad “what would you like right now” sense because there’s so many thoughts and emotions in their mind that it’s hard to think of anything. I found questions like “If I did _____ for you, would that be helpful?” or “Would you want ____ right now?” or “Do you want company or just want to have some space?” or “Do you want to talk?” to be helpful….ask yes/no questions.

Personally, when I was in the depths of grieving, I didn’t feel like I should “burden” my friends with requests for company or anything else. I didn’t want to be a bother considering everyone else had their own families and work to attend to. But my good friends Dahn and Meth pretty much reprimanded me in saying I was insulting their friendship by not turning to them when they have offered to be there for me. I’m not saying you should reprimand your grieving friend by any means…but that worked for me. I needed to receive permission to lean on my friends. And I found my family did as well, though they heard it differently from their friends. So, let your friend know (maybe repeatedly) you EXPECT them to ask things of you.

Gift baskets are also nice. I like them for the practical aspect that they last a little longer than flowers do. But I would suggest if you’re putting a basket together, to include the foods and snack items that the family or friend would enjoy. We’re an Asian family and we received baskets of different jams and crackers and dip mixes. It was a very nice gift basket, but my family doesn’t really eat a lot of those kinds of foods. If it was roasted nuts, dried mangos, fruit and egg tarts however, that would’ve been more our thing. Find out what their comfort foods are. I would say hold off on restaurant gift certificates because often there are celebrations going on in restaurants, and it’s a bummer to sit next to one when you’re grieving.

Bringing meals may be a better idea. Meal planning when your heart and mind is overtaken by grief is a burden. Appetites are also not good, so a light meal is enough. Sometimes, if you ask whether they’d like a meal brought, they may decline…as to not burden you…but for us, it was nice having friends suddenly show up with a pan of fried noodles or a pot of soup to leave for us at the door.

And sometimes, just offering to go over and sit together is good too. Jewish ppl have a term for that…”sitting shiva”…where after a funeral, friends/community come together and just sit. You don’t  have to offer any words of comfort or really try to do anything. Just sit and share the sorrow. That’s often more comforting than anything you might think of saying.

Lastly, don’t take anything they might do or say right now personally. Grief can take hold and change a person. Keep them in prayers and walk alongside them if they invite you to. Walk alongside them from a distance if they don’t. In time, we become more ourselves again. And we will be thankful for those who walked with us the whole way.

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On the flip side, if you are a grieving family member, I am very sorry for your loss and what you are going through. I’ve been there. Some days you’re not sure if you’ll make it through, but it DOES get better. Know that your friends want to be there for you. Know also that they cannot read your mind to know what you would most appreciate being done or said. Their assumptions of what you might want could be exactly what you DON’T want. Don’t be afraid to let your friends know what would be comforting to you. This makes it better for everyone. Allow them to be there for you. They love you and care for you. God’s peace and comfort is upon you, through them.

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Brokenness: Nothing could’ve prepared me for this

(Image not mine)

Nothing.

It was a regular Thursday, but during the Calgary Stampede week. I was finishing at the office when I get a phone call. My brother’s been hurt. I need to get to the hospital. My sister and Dad were already there. I needed to find Mom. We didn’t have a car as Dad took it. But God provided as Meth came to drive my Mom and I to the hospital.

I saw look in my Dad’s eyes. Heard the sorrow from my Mom and sister. And heard the seemingly casual words from the attending physician. “He’s brain-dead. Please sign here to donate his organs.” (She said more than that, but that’s all I heard.) It was like clawing through a nightmare that you can’t wake up from. I slept, barely, woke….and the same crushing ache gripped me. I’m still not prepared to talk about all the details of that night or the following few days. I barely even let myself remember it…only fragments here and there. And purposely not in order. But I’m sure I can recall everything.

A raw, gaping, gushing hole was torn into my heart and life. The sun shone less brightly…and couldn’t bring warmth. I don’t know how else to describe it but my world changed. Shattered. Shifted. And I, I felt like I was teetering on the edge of a deep, dark precipice. I imagined leaning over, wondering how it would be to fall forward and allow the darkness consume me. But I felt God reach out and tell me that wasn’t the way, but to bring Him my sorrow instead. So for a while, it was like I sat on God/Daddy’s lap as He held and comforted me, a few feet from that cliff.

I thought back to a time where I wondered to myself “Well, I’ve been broken with regards to intelligence, friends, job and relationships….what else could be next? Health? Family? I think I’ll be prepared.

Well. I wasn’t. But, I had gotten to know God more…and I know He loves my brother more than I can humanly grasp. I know God wasn’t being cruel in letting this happen. I know God knows infinitely more than I could imagine. I don’t need to understand everything. I could accept or reject His comfort. I could trust or blame Him. I didn’t know much more than that. Over the next few years of healing, though I don’t think we’ll completely heal on this side of Heaven, I realized a few things more. This wasn’t about God smashing idols. Or asking me if He is enough. This was about whether or not I would be faithful and trust Him. No matter what.

“You give and take away, but I will bless Your name.”

This past weekend was his birthday. He would’ve been 28.
I love you and miss you.

Soon and Very Soon

This past weekend Skywalker and I checked out First Baptist Church in downtown Vancouver to hear Darrell Johnson speak. He has the gift of bringing scripture to life. Not in the “Here’s the passage, this is what it means, and these are three applications you can take home” sense…rather somehow, the Word, the Living Word, is brought to life. From the black text on white paper to the multicolor, living, breathing Word that soaks into and feeds my being. Somehow.

The passage was Revelations 21-22 which speaks to the second coming of Christ…and this lines up nicely with the supposed “end of the world/end of an era” event that is deemed to happen Friday Dec 21 2012. I will not be able to do the sermon justice or cover it all but you can listen to it here.

To start, Jesus says that no one but the Father knows the day that He is returning (the end of the world)…so unless someone knows more than Jesus, any prediction as to what the “end” date will be can be safely concluded as being wrong. History has proven this 100% of the time. That said, Jesus did repeat three times (repetition is significant in scripture) “I am coming soon!” (22:7, 12, 20) He is continually coming and is always near, though veiled from us. He’s so near that when the day comes, He only needs to tear away the veil and be right before our eyes. And we shall SEE HIS FACE! (22:4) Like the groom looking into the face of his bride, He will remove the veil from His bride the Church, and we shall see His face.         Intimate. Glorious. Wow.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Cor 13:12)

To see the face of God….and live! And we shall see the faces of those whose journeys have impacted our faith. Abraham. King David. Mary. Paul. Brother Lawrence. C.S. Lewis. The faces of loved ones. My Grandpa.        My brother.       Oh how I want to see his face again. For the first time in five years, I am looking forward to when I’ll see my brother again instead of looking back to when I saw him last. I’m looking forward to where there will be no more tears. No more death or mourning or crying or pain. (21:3-4) What hope for those who’ve lost someone in the Lord! What joy!

As more news pours in about young lives being taken, in the States, in China, in Afghanistan, the more I desire Christ to reveal Himself. Not so that I can escape the pain of this world…but so everything can be made right in the world again. For tears to be wiped away and for the sting of death to cease.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen. (Revelations 22:20-21)

Do you look forward to Jesus’ return?

Too Cool for Comfort

We came to a sad realization early this morning. Two windows were cracked open for the comfort of the cool night air but somewhere in the vicinity of 4:00am I awoke to the chilly draft of cool air entering that space behind my neck. Turning to my side I saw Skywalker in a fetal position with the sheet we use instead of a blanket pulled over his head and tucked all around him in efforts to seal out any such draft like that which crept into my coccoon. So that’s where all the sheet went…good thing I had the extra throw on my side of the bed. Groggily I braved the chilly air and shut one window before grabbing my big bathrobe to lay over Skywalker. Pulling the eye mask back on and re-coccooning myself in the throw, I went back to sleep.

It was just a little too cool to be comfortable,” said Skywalker this morning.

Yes it was….which means it’s time for the blankets to come back out.
Which means Summer is slowly, but surely, coming to a close.
Which, in anticipation of the short days and long nights of Winter, is sad.

On the plus side, we can now cuddle without him telling me it’s too hot.