Lost in Loss

If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you know what I mean. Grief often feels like a cave, or a deep wood, where you think you may wonder around for ever and never see light again, never find your way out, never stretch, breath deeply, and relax again. You just feel lost. I have a friend who once got lost in a cave – he and a partner were caving, and their head lamps gave out, and then their backup flashlights gave out, and it was dark. I mean really dark. And they were pretty deep into a cave that has multiple rooms and passages. One could easily get lost and not find a way out. They did, but he describes the utter fear and helplessness of being lost in the dark with no way to call for help. Grief can feel like that sometimes.
Our mom, Ruth Grace Wagner Crawford, died on October 28th, 1997, 10 years ago this month. She died on a Tuesday, and her memorial service was on a Saturday. We hired a piper to play Amazing Grace from the hall outside the Worship Space, and one of the funeral scripture readings was from the Old Testament book of Ruth 1:16 “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” The very next day, the same text was appointed from the Lectionary, so the pastor preached from it again. We all saw it Sunday morning in the bulletin and wept. And wondered how deep the cave might be.
Mom had been sick before, and we all knew this was a possibility. But things turned so suddenly, from my vantage anyway. I was not ready (if one ever is). And I felt lost. I know that Dad did too. He spoke some and wrote some during those months of wondering and wandering, not sure where his life was headed without Ruth in it. He never had really been able to imagine life without her since she came into it nearly four decades earlier. He felt lost.
He is painfully pragmatic, so he managed to pick himself up and get on with the work of living. But even now, so many years and so much love later, he still is in touch with that loss, and part of him will always be lost in it.
I have lost friends, and have friends who have lost loved ones. I know for myself, and from watching them, how easily we get lost. It is hard to know what to say or do. What is the ‘appropriate’ course and schedule for grieving? How do you know when you or someone else is ‘stuck’? How do you get ‘unstuck’?
I think one thing we can do as a community of faith, as a church, is to be more intentional about discussing life and death. What will it mean for you to have lived a ‘good life’? To die a ‘good death’? What meaning and hope does our relationship with God through Christ bring to us? How do we talk about that in ways that are natural and comfortable? Death is unavoidable, and yet we live as though everymoment is an effort to deny and avoid the unavoidable. I’m not suggesting we become morbid or simply resign. But how do you want to be remembered? What will it look like for your friends and family to celebrate your passing from this life into the next? What do they need to know from you to make things easier on them during those days? Have you ever sat down with those closest to you and talked through funeral arrangements, eulogy and obituary? If someone were to capture the three most important moments or accomplishments of your life, what would they be? What words of faith from scripture or song best capture your understanding of God that you would want to share with those who gather to remember and celebrate your life?
Thinking about these things can help us avoid getting lost, or become a light that will guide us toward a way out when we do feel lost. Many words of faith from the Old Testament gave hope to God’s people during times of loss and exile – they were able to proclaim the goodness of God from their memory until they experienced God’s goodness again in their present circumstances. In this way, God’s word became a lamp to their feet and a light to their paths.
Scripture, Song and prayer rescued me from being lost in my own loss when Mom died. At times I wonder if people feel as lost as they appear to be. I hesitate to ask, at the risk of hurting them more – but how can you hurt anyone more than the pain they already know from loosing their dearest love? Here’s hoping that they might find joy in life once more.

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