“Insisting that life stay the same post-loss is essentially the same as saying, “Let’s just pretend this never happened.” That’s an incredible disservice to the person, place, or thing that you lost. “Shelby Forsythia
I love the picture that I chose to go along with this post. It expresses so much better than words the sense of loss I am experiencing at the death of my brother John. He died recently and I am still coming to understand what that loss means for me as I go on living. I am alone now when it comes to my immediate family. There was just mom, dad, my brother, and me, and now there is just me. Yes, I have other family, nieces and nephew, in-laws and cousins, but that is not the same. Only my brother knew the story of our early years as family. How we used to laugh as we would retell the stories to one another. Now I carry that story alone.
The other thing about grief is that every loss brings up the memory and feelings of past losses — all those deaths that have added up over the years. We carry the weight of those losses even when, at times, we forget. The feelings come back and haunt us. We remember and mourn again.
The thing about death that is so bothersome is that even when we believe in a loving God who receives each of us with gentleness and love as we die, we miss the person who has died. It is wonderful to know that a loved one is with God, but that does not take away the real-life experience of missing them. We do not need to pretend that we do not miss them and that missing them makes us sad.
With many others I am watching the news coming out of Ukraine and cannot begin to imagine the sense of loss and grief that people are experiencing. Each death from this unjust war must feel criminal, immoral, and evil. The injustice of each death must add to the grief and lead to outrage. I do not know how you avoid those feelings. We can only pray that God will stand with the people of Ukraine and continue to console them while bringing them courage.
Hebrew scriptures contain numerous accounts of wars. Rabbi Heschel writes: “As it was in the age of the prophets, so it is in nearly every age: we all go mad, not only as individuals, but also nationally. We check manslaughter and isolated murders; we wage wars and slaughter whole peoples.” Prophets still cry out against the cruelties of nations against nations.
It never fails to amaze me that so many human beings are ready to kill and ready to die because some ruler has called for war. There is an unthinking submissiveness, even obsequiousness involved in this behavior. It is some kind of worship and veneration of power and might. What is it that blinds people and lets them continue to believe that might makes right, and that force and violence brings peace? We are witnessing this behavior now as soldiers go about the business of killing, not other soldiers, but noncombatants — women, children, the elderly, just anybody. This violence is particularly obscene.
The prophets let us know where God stands in all of this for the prophets proclaim that the heart of God is always on the side of the weaker, the lowly, the downtrodden. Prophets are the first ones to remind us that a nation’s confidence when built on force is evil.
Sadly, as we have experienced time and again, God does not always intervene but can allow oppressors and evil doers to continue. This makes it difficult for us to remember that God’s ways are just and merciful. We know that God watches the course of events with us, and that God cares. Even as war and destruction continue, we witness the compassion of God at work in those who are rushing forward to help war torn refugees. But how we wish that God would intervene and end the war.
A tyrant is waging war on Ukraine, and we do not see the end of this senseless suffering. What we can do is continue to pray to God that something good can be brought out of this mess, that some light can shine in this darkness, and that humanity may finally come to repentance and find an end to war.
My beloved ones in Christ, let us not cease in our prayers for peace and do what we can to help relieve the suffering by donating towards those who are welcoming refugees in the surrounding countries. Let us stay faithful and trusting.