I wish I could write a flowery tribute to him. I can’t. I had lost touch with him for many years, finally making contact with him about nine years ago. Since then I have had only the occasional brief interaction with him. So, I find that I can only share the thoughts and feelings that came in response to his death.
When I heard the news I was instantly assailed with self questioning. A thousand “what ifs” raced through my brain. “What if I had been a better friend? What if I had maintained better contact? What if he knew that I would have been available to be a listening ear, or a helping hand?” I question myself the same way when friends or neighbors get divorced. “What if I had been a better neighbor or better friend? Could I have helped in anyway? What if they knew I would have been available as a listening ear, or a helping hand?”
But I wasn’t. In neither of these cases was I the friend or neighbor that I could have been or should have been. At my church I have the reputation for being friendly, outgoing, and welcoming. But if truth be known I live a pretty isolated life. You might say that we can’t be all things to all people, and that is true, but I think many of us can make a much better effort at reaching out to those around us who may or may not be obviously struggling. I know that there have been those on Internet Monk who have expressed their struggles and I apologize for not being as supportive as I should have been.
I am not a person who easily experiences discouragement or depression. I tend not to have “dark” episodes in my life. So, it is not easy for me to understand what others are going through. I do on occasion ask myself, “Why them and not me?” Often is is more like “there but for the grace of God go I.”
There are obviously things that go on in someone’s brain that I do not and cannot understand. Setting that aside for a moment, their has been one thing that has helped me not descend into dispair, and that has been the support of others.
We have had several crises in our family in the last few years. One of them was a house flip that flopped and left us in dire financial straits. It was only through the support of friends, family, and church that we were able to pull through. It is pretty humbling when you are dependent upon others to help pay your bills. We are so grateful those who offered us assistance.
More recently it was the death of my father-in-law, Gord, who died two months ago after a short battle with brain cancer. Again the support was heartfelt, and significant. Church families and neighbors brought meals. Pastors visited and brought communion to the hospital. Their were a lot of people at the visitation and funeral who didn’t know my father-in-law, but came in support of the family members they did know. Five pastors attended the funeral!
There have been other issues, some bigger, some smaller than the two mentioned here. The support of others have been crucial in how we have coped.
I wanted to leave you with one final thought. Sometimes I struggle with being a member of an evangelical church. I feel like I don’t fit. (To be fair, I am not sure where I would fit, but that is a much longer story!)
The biggest thing that keeps me there is that we have found a caring community. One that recognizes when we are hurting and wants to help. (“Don’t worry about teaching Sunday School this semester, we have you covered.”) One that stands alongside you in difficult times. (“We want to give you both a gift and loan from the benvolent fund.”) One that cares about how you are doing. (“Is everything okay, I felt burdened to pray for you this past week.” – At a time when I felt I needed prayer the most.)
I feel fortunate to have found a church like this. I feel sad that others haven’t. Maybe, just maybe, if we could “be the church” a little bit more there might be a few sadder stories like the one that prompted this post. I know this is something that I will be pondering for many weeks to come.