In our small town, death notices are posted on a bulletin board at the Post Office. Folks slow down on the way to their mail boxes to scan the names on the little cards. Being a small town, the odds of knowing the person are pretty high. After looking at the name, one looks at the age. Oh, this one lived a long life! Death is always sad, but easier to accept if the person had been blessed with the gift of many birthdays.
This past week, one card stopped many in their tracks. It announced the sudden death of a young, 28 year old man. He was a school friend of my eldest son. Hubby over-heard two elder gentlemen of the community wondering out loud about this too-young-to-die notice. What happened? Another told the sad truth. He had taken his own life.
We never have to look far for intentions to pray for. But, sometimes our lives are hit with a tsunami of sadness. It`s one piece of bad news after another. A young father, a friend of a friend across the ocean, dies suddenly leaving behind a stunned and grieving wife and young children. Young and old battle the scourge that is cancer. Some win the battle. Too many lose it leaving behind incredible sorrow for family and friends. On Saturday, a young mother from a neighboring town slid into an oncoming semi-trailer on a winter highway and was killed instantly. Her 4 year old twins were with her, and are still in hospital.
It is easier to give a moment`s notice to sad news, and then try to let it go. Why dwell on it and make ourselves miserable? Why bring all this negative energy into our day? We have enough stresses of our own to worry about!
Nothing we say or do will take away the horrible pain of deep loss. And, yes, thinking about the reality of loss can make us feel pretty low, even if our relationship to the person is at arm`s length or more. What, then, must the pain be like for those directly involved? The thought of losing my 28 year old son is too much to bear. How does the mother who is living this reality bear it?
Sometimes, the only thing that we can do is pray.
Praying for another is to commit to entering into the sadness, even if for a moment. It means offering them up to a loving God who always hears our prayers. It means giving words to another`s wordless grief. It is a hope that the pains we feel from a distance may in some way lessen the pain of the one who is experiencing the immediate hell and agony of suffering and loss.
It is offering a spiritual shoulder to lean on, even if the person has no idea that you are praying for them. It is joining hands with a compassionate communion of saints in circling the suffering soul with love and support.