There is an art to participating in life, in coping with the daily events and in rising to the occasion.
Some of the skills we learn in our family — if they know them — and others we learn from our community — if we have one.
More and more, I am reminded of the importance of community and yes even organized community. We see the stats of falling membership in churches, and worry that the churches are fading… But I’m not sure that should be our only concern about these diminishing communities. As a minister, no big surprise, I believe faith is important and that it matters that we put our Love to work in the world, but I also think that membership is important. It enriches our lives if we belong to a group, particularly if that group helps us look at why we show up.
One of the ways showing up can help us is that we learn from others who show up. We watch, we observe, we imitate. This is so important in the observing of life’s milestones.
Sadly, tragedy is one of those milestones. There is no life free from it. Death is the inevitable end of life. Many of us think we will end our lives in quiet old age in our sleep, but this is true for only about a third of us.
One of my friends would argue that a person’s death is not a tragedy, but if that person is beloved to us, it is a personal tragedy. We lose that person, we are reminded that life is fleeting, we realize how precious and fragile life is. And other life events impact communities, even nations, even the world.
We want to say something. We want to make sense of things. But death is a simple reality and the surviving deal with that devastation in many ways. Our own experience is different from that of others’. So do we say? A simple “I’m sorry.” or and “I’m thinking of (praying for) you.”
We don’t know what others believe about an afterlife, that’s for them to tell us. There’s no sense to be made of such loss at this time, that just tells people they can’t feel what they feel. So we show up. With some cake, or some fruit, or an easily digested meal. We offer presence, knowing that we can’t make this awful reality any better by anything we say.
We listen. Because people need to tell the story. We step up and handle things the mourners might have had to handle. And we wait. We keep vigil. We are present to their needs without imposing ours. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and it helps to have a community because there will be those people who manage these things graciously and we can learn from them. Because as with any art, there’s a lot of practice, missteps and discipline to make it as effortless as it looks. The effortless is well-rehearsed. So presence is sometimes all that offers Peace. And sometimes being presence is withdrawing. It’s what they need… so it’s what we give. Peace.