A few weeks ago, I wrote about my grandmother who taught me about engagement and meaningful work. She died when I was only twelve. What I remember most vividly about her funeral and the wake afterward was the seemingly endless stories that were told about her. I remember being astonished that people were laughing and joking when only an hour earlier they had been weeping and grief-stricken. I learned an important lesson that day: life is about both grief and joy, and they may be two sides of the same coin.
These past few weeks have seemed to be especially hard given the many announcements of death, especially among the parents of our members and friends. Over the years, I have also learned that no matter how old you are, when your mother or father dies you are devastated—even if you are in your late 50s or 60s. Your mom is your mom and your dad is your dad, no matter how old you are. Learning about loss is actually one of the most important lessons that we will all go through, including our students. It may be the loss of a parent, but it could also be the loss of a pet or a friend or other family member. As teachers, many of us will be expected to know what to say and how to be.
Whether you are new to the profession or a veteran who has not yet travelled that sorrow highway, you know it is inevitable. We know that our hope is in our God who does not fail us, but grief does sometimes open us up to doubt and feeling alone. I wonder if the way through the tears is through story. The telling of stories—both funny and serious—help all of us to imagine that person, to somehow give life back to the person, if only for a little while.
Telling a story about the person who is now gone, or even reaching out without words, may be a comfort for those who are missing their loved one. And our students are watching us; they take their cues from the adults who surround them. Just as I learned that it was actually OK to smile on the day of my grandmother’s funeral, young people will watch to see how we carry our hope and our faith even in the most trying and difficult times.
To all of you who have lost loved ones recently, may the love of our God, the comfort of the Holy Spirit and the peace that passes all understanding surround you!