"May God be with you as you figure out life without someone so near and dear to you."
The words above came with a disclaimer that the words in the card might not be theologically "correct." They were perfect. I have been getting many such cards, filled with kind and healing words. Some were wise. Some were comforting. All were heartfelt.
Sometimes the most healing gestures had no words. A look, a hug, a gesture. A presence. The actions of many epitomized the compassion of the picture on the left. Whether it was words, actions or silences, they all help with the healing.
For those who are wondering what this is about, my dear friend, Rich Gantenbein passed away suddenly on April 27. It was his 68th birthday and he died of a massive heart attack. We were to meet the following Monday, as we have done for 30+ years, to do our annual week of sermon preparation, idea sharing, and a general reminder of the blessings of friendship. Instead, Lee Ann and I were in Sonoma last weekend for the Memorial Service and to worship with the good folks at St. Andrew Presbyterian.
I share all this not because this death is more unique than any other death or my grief is somehow special. Just the opposite. Grief and loss are the most universal experiences of the human condition. They are the natural companions of love and gratitude and when we stand with people who are grieving, we are on holy ground. The pain is a testimony to a life that has been affected by love. I am grateful for that pain and for having so many sit with me in the midst of it.