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Monday, February 05, 2007

Mourning and Weeping

A friend sent me an e-mail last week telling me that my former associate pastor’s father had passed away. So, I went to the store to pick up a sympathy card and something really bugged me as I combed my hand through the cards that were available. Every “religious” card had a positive, upbeat message about a loved one entering heaven. Death, the readers of the cards are assured, is just the door that leads to heaven.

I’m a Christian who has no doubts about the existence of heaven, but it seems to me that these sympathy cards were lacking sympathy. King Solomon said that there is a time for mourning (Ecclesiastes 3:4). The Apostle Paul said that we are to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). I can’t help but wonder—have we lost the willingness, desire, and courage to weep with others?

When I lost my own father, I called a friend as I left work to tell him what had happened. I honestly can’t remember a word he said. But I remember his voice cracking with emotion as my own tears flowed. Later that night, three of my single guy friends (one of whom was the person I called on my way home from work) showed up at my sister’s house (the place my family gathered) with a cake. I can’t remember anything they said. I just remember them sitting in the living room and, in a sense, mourning with me and my family over our loss.

After the funeral, as people passed by the immediate family for the last time before the long and solemn ride to the cemetery, I looked up and one of my male cousins was reaching out to hug me. He had tears in his eyes and he’s not the type to show a lot of emotion. A couple of months later, I was on the golf course with some friends and in the middle of the round I lost it after seeing one of my Dad’s clubs in my golf bag. One of my friends recognized what was going on and he came over and put his arm around my shoulder. I pointed to the club and whispered, “It was my Dad’s.” He didn’t try to fix me or to get me to stop showing emotion. He simply mourned with me. (I wrote about it here.)

With all of this in mind as I was choosing a card for my former associate pastor, I bypassed the religious cards and found one that captured the essence of what I wanted to tell him. On the front it simply said, “In Sympathy.” Inside, it said, “Extending deep and heartfelt sympathy to you and your family.” I added my own personal message and then I mailed it to him (several states away). Hopefully, my small voice will just be one of many who join with him as he mourns the loss of his father.


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