Waking up this morning to write felt especially hard. We’re already in such an emotionally heightened climate with the elections drawing near, the shooting at The Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday, is like a punch to the gut, that threatens to takes the wind out of me. I hear that cowardly whisper in my mind, “What can I say that would even matter?” I’ve learned to recognize that whisper as a LOUD reminder that I want to fight back by choosing not to be silent on things that matter.
Silence is easier, but connection through pain, is lifegiving.
We lost a lifelong family friend unexpectedly last week. Joe Perry and his wife Linda were loyal friends to my parents, and our family, through all of the years of my life, quite literally since I was four years old. The choice to attend the visitation was, of course, inconvenient. It meant juggling kids, homework, and dinner, while fighting traffic to get down to the chapel. But when I stood next to my strong, wise father who has officiated many funeral services, and watched him break down sobbing over seeing his dear friend laying there, I was instantly reminded of why we attend these gatherings.
We don’t do it for the ones who are gone.
We show up for all the ones who are left behind. That reminder was solidified, even further as we passed through the greeting line to hug precious Linda and their grown sons, who were my childhood playmates. There are no words that work in those moments. Only eyes that say, “You are seen and I’m hurting with you.”
It’s the ministry of presence.
Brené Brown articulates this so well in her book Braving the Wilderness. “The collective pain, we experience when gathering in any way to celebrate the end of a life if perhaps one of the most powerful experiences of inextricable connection. Death, loss and grief are the great equalizers. . . This humanity transcends all of the differences that keep us apart. . . An experience of collective pain doesn’t deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time.”
She goes on to retell a gut wrenching story from Sheryl Sandberg’s book Option B in which she finds herself laying in the grass, with her arms wrapped around her grieving children, in the wake of the unexpected loss of her husband, their father. Almost unknowingly she begins singing “Oseh Shalom”, a prayer for peace. It is last line of the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for mourning.
Oseh Shalom – may The Source of peace in the heavens cause peace to descend on us.
On this day, which is still filled with enormous, pain, grief and loss for our family, as we pause to remember Kyle’s passing and celebrate his life. . . in this moment, in our nation’s history, in which we find ourselves navigating our way through tragedy and loss, mixed with the sour waters of divisive rhetoric . . . may we lose sight of all the differences that divide us, and find strength in our humanity, together in the collective pain we feel.
Let us together sing, Oseh Shalom.
to more love,