ENCOURAGEMENT AND CONSOLATION
In a recent worship service, five members of our congregation shared their own experiences of God’s healing. Each attributed their healing to God’s answering their prayers and the prayers of others. These testimonies were filled with praise and thanksgiving.
As I listened to these accounts of God’s healing grace, I thought how much easier our faith would be if our prayers for healing were always answered. But they are not, and we are often baffled. I pondered my own personal prayers for thirty years asking for relief from tinnitus. And I was reminded of Paul, who prayed three times that God would remove the painful thorn from his flesh. When it was not God’s will that Paul be healed, God did promise His grace would be sufficient for Paul. In the absence of healing, I accept that promise of grace.
But I am often frustrated, and I am thankful for help from family and friends as I cope with my own thorn. Flying Closer to the Flame: A Passion for the Holy Spirit, a book by Dr. Charles Swindoll, one of my favorite inspirational authors, has helped me in accepting God’s will when healing isn’t granted.
My heart goes out to others coping with their own struggles and heartaches. I see those with excruciating pain and those who are homebound, bedridden, and/or confined to wheelchairs. I see parents who live with the daily care of children with serious physical or mental limitations and adults dealing with the care of aging parents. I see those with a healthy mind trapped in an unwell body and those with a healthy body hindered by reduced mental capacity. I see grief for the death of a loved one. I am aware of losses unrelated to physical problems and death. These include broken relationships within families or homes, other social problems, and economic problems. These situations remind us of the expression "Living trouble is worse than death." To carry these burdens from day to day brings a weariness only those who experience them can understand.
The Burden of a Secret, by Dr. James Allen, pastor and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, tells the heart-wrenching story of his family’s struggle with AIDS. In 1985 Dr. Allen’s daughter-in-law learned that through HIV tainted blood given at the birth of her first child Matt three years previously, she, Matt, and a second child were carriers of the virus. The Allen family determined that due to the lack of knowledge of AIDS at that time, they would confide in as few people as possible. Thus the family lived with the burden of this secret for seven years before it became known. The daughter-in-law and both of her sons died.
Dr. Allen’s book shares, almost too intimately for my comfort, how his twelve-year-old grandson Matt faced his own death and helped family, friends, schoolmates, and others in his life to accept that he was going to be with his mother and little brother Bryan. He wanted to say "Good-bye" to special people like "Great Gran" and he went about doing this. Matt’ s body fought the dreaded disease for twelve years. Since reading this book sharing the hurts the Allen family suffered, I have often reminded myself that we do not know what another person may be coping with privately. To suffer in silence demands extreme strength.
My dear friend Anne has had multiple sclerosis for many years. She was a vivacious leader and a person of varied talents until the disease took charge of her life. Recently Anne shared with me her feeling that God has called her to be a listener. Acquaintances and members of her church come to Anne—not to comfort but to be comforted. Knowing how to listen helpfully requires self-discipline and training. Those who would bring comfort do not necessarily need many words and often offer no words, simply listening with their hearts and allowing the grieving one to be comfortable letting out their grief.
I have read extensively on grief and given much time and thought to the comforting of sufferers. Someone asked if my reading makes me sad or contributes to depression. It does neither. I recognize my limitations, yet I feel God can use lay persons to encourage and console.
I wish we knew more of Barnabas, who was known as the Son of Encouragement or Consolation. I have recently found references to Barnabas indicating he was much more involved in the ministry than I had known.
William Barclay wrote about encouragers: "One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement .... It is easy to laugh at men’s ideals; it is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasm; it is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet. Blessed is the man who speaks such a word."
Grief at the death of one we love may be one of life’s most devastating blows. Friends usually respond openly and freely at this time. Those who are suffering may even feel overwhelmed by the attention. Someone has said there seems to be no end to casseroles which serve twelve and other food offerings. The gestures of caring enable those bearing the shock of loss to get through the time immediately following the death. The attentiveness of caring supporters from the time of death and through the funeral does little to prepare the anguished for that time when duties and lifestyles take these friends away. The loneliness comes before the wound has begun to heal. Grief is a process and recovery may leave scars. "Healing is a matter of time" (Hippocrates).
I long to bring comfort to those who I know are suffering the pain of grief at the death of a loved one this week, this month, last year, or five years ago. It can take so long for healing to come. Too, we are all different and react just as variably. Grief may be one of our most intimately personal emotions.
"When words fail, tears flow," says Dr. Charles Swindoll in his book For Those Who Hurt. The full text of Dr. Swindoll’s "Some Thoughts on Tears" from this book are included in this newsletter. In another of his books,Flying Closer to the Flame: A Passion for the Holy Spirit, Dr. Swindoll writes extensively about allowing ourselves to feel and express our emotions. Some people long to open their hearts to another. At times tears may be part of this relief, but few of us are comfortable in the presence of another’s tears. Too often listeners think "getting their mind off it" is the way to help someone who is grieving. That one is blessed who has even one person who can allow the grieving one to talk and to cry about their pain and loss.
Those who would be comforters would do well to recall that Job’s friends sat seven days in complete silence because they were so overwhelmed when they saw how severely he was suffering. At times when circumstances seem to rob us of words, we can often rely on simply being present.
Sadly, many of us are not comfortable praying with others—we rely upon the clergy to do this. But we can ask God to place His arms around others and bring abiding peace to their hearts. "Only that which lies outside the will of God lies outside the reach of prayer" (Dr. R. G. Lee). To pray for another is to offer supreme help.
As I have brought together and shared these thoughts about encouragement and consolation, I have renewed my determination to be more aware of and seek more diligently for the best ways to help. I challenge you to do the same.
LISTENING SYSTEM NOW AVAILABLE
A Telex Sound Mate Personal Listening System has been installed at the Funeral Home to assist the hearing impaired during services in the Chapel. Personal receivers with earphones provide clear reception and are comfortable to use and easy to adjust. Just ask any Funeral Home staff member to provide this listening aid.
SOME THOUGHTS ON TEARS
When words fail, tears flow.
Tears have a language all their own, a tongue that needs no interpreter. In some mysterious way, our complex innercommunication system knows when to admit its verbal limitations. ..and the tears come.
Eyes that flashed and sparkled only moments before are flooded from a secret reservoir. We try in vain to restrain the flow, but even strong men falter.
Tears are not self-conscious. They can spring upon us when we are speaking in public, or standing beside others who look to us for strength. Most often they appear when our soul is overwhelmed with feelings that words cannot describe.
Our tears may flow during the singing of a great, majestic hymn, or when we are alone, lost in some vivid memory or wrestling in prayer.
Did you know that God takes special notice of those tears of yours? Psalm 56:8 tells us that He puts them in His bottle and enters them into the record He keeps on our lives.
David said, "The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping."
A teardrop on earth summons the King of Heaven. Rather than being ashamed or disappointed, the Lord takes note of our inner friction when hard times are oiled by tears. He turns these situations into moments of tenderness; He never forgets those crises in our lives where tears were shed.
One of the great drawbacks of our cold, sophisticated society is its reluctance to showing tears. For some strange reason, men feel that tears are a sign of weakness and many an adult feels it’s immature. How silly! How unfortunate! The consequence is that we place a watchdog named "restraint" before our hearts. This animal is trained to bark, snap and scare away any unexpected guest who seeks entrance.
The ultimate result is a well-guarded, highly respectable, uninvolved heart surrounded by heavy bars of confinement. Such a structure resembles a prison more than a home where the tender Spirit of Christ resides.
Jeremiah lived in no such dwelling. His transparent tent was so tender and sensitive he could not preach a sermon without the interruption of tears. "The weeping prophet" became his nickname and even though he didn’t always have the words to describe his feelings, he was never at a loss to communicate his convictions. You could always count on Jeremiah to bury his head in his hands and sob aloud.
Strange that this man was selected by God to be His personal spokesman at the most critical time in Israel’s history. Seems like an unlikely choice—unless you value tears as God does. I wonder how many tear bottles in heaven are marked with his name.
I wonder how many of them bear your initials. You’ll never have many until you impound restraint and let a little tenderness run loose. You might lose a little of your polished respectability, but you’ll have a lot more freedom. And a lot less pride.
—Charles R. Swindoll, "Some Thoughts on Tears," For Those Who Hurt,pages 34-37. Multnomah Press, Portland, Oregon, 1977.
HELPING BEREAVED PARENTS
DO’S - DON’TS
Do let your genuine concern and caring show.
Do be available.. to listen, to run errands, to help with the other children, or whatever else seems needed at the time.
Do say you are sony about what happened to their child and about their pain.
Do allow them to express as much grief as they are feeling at the moment and are willing to share.
Do encourage them to be patient with themselves, not to expect too much of themselves and not to impose any "shoulds" on themselves.
Do allow them to talk about the child they have lost as much and as often as they want to.
Do talk about the special endearing qualities of the child they’ve lost.
Do give special attention to the child’s brothers and sisters at the funeral and in the months to come (they too are hurt and confused and in need of attention which their parents may not be able to give at this time).
Do reassure them that they did everything that they could, that the medical care their child received was the best or whatever else you know to be true and positive about the care given to their child.
Don’t let your own sense of helplessness keep you from reaching out to a bereaved parent.
Don’t avoid them because you are uncomfortable (being avoided by friends adds pain to an already intolerably painful experience).
Don’t say you know how they feel (unless you’ve lost a child yourself, you probably don’t know how they feel).
Don’t say "you ought to be feeling better by now" or anything else that implies a judgment about their feelings.
Don’t tell them what they should feel or do.
Don’t change the subject when they mention their dead child.
Don’t avoid mentioning the child’s name out of fear of reminding them of their pain (they haven’t forgotten it!).
Don’t try to find something positive (e.g., a moral lesson, closer family ties, etc.) about the child’s death.
Don’t point out that at least they have their other children (children are not interchangeable; they cannot replace each other).
Don’t say that they can always have another child (even if they wanted and could, another child would not replace the child they’ve lost).
Don’t make any comments which in any way suggest that the care given their child at home, in the emergency room hospital, or wherever was inadequate (parents are plagued by feelings of doubt and guilt without any help from their family and friends).
—Parent Bereavement Outreach
May your angel wings be strong to watch over us.
You beat us to heaven but only for a short time.
Green for the green grass you will always play on, blue for the blue skies you now look down on us from, and red for all the love you gave us and left behind.
I know you have gone to meet Jesus; we will miss you and we will meet you one day.
These were a few of the messages of love and loss written by family and friends on the casket of a young teenager who was struck by a vehicle while crossing a highway to board a Lafayette County school bus.
While message caskets have been used for many years in funeral service, this was the first time Bob and Beth Rosson suggested a message casket to a family. During the arrangements conference, the family was presented with information about the casket, including pictures, description, and an explanation of how the casket would allow visitors to actually write their thoughts on the casket itself. After careful consideration and a tour of the other caskets available in the selection room, the parents chose to use the message casket.
Batesville Casket Company furnished an unstained Barkley oak casket and the Funeral Home supplied permanent markers in several colors. Near the casket a small sign was placed that said: "Message casket. Please write your message of love and loss." The local school was notified. and teachers explained to the children that they would be able to write on the casket during visitation. Many children came prepared with their thoughts and verses.
The response was overwhelming. Friends and family spent time touching and reading the messages. Adults as well as children told Bob and Beth that the message casket was a very special way or them to begin accepting and dealing with their grief over this child’s tragic death.
While message caskets are certainly not always appropriate, family, friends, and Funeral Home staff felt this was a warm, loving, personal good-bye to Zach.
COUNT THAT DAY LOST
If you sit down at set of sun And count the acts that you have done.
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went— Then you may count that day well spent.
But if, through all the livelong day, You’ve cheered no heart, by yea or nay— If, through it all
You’ve nothing done that you can trace That brought the sunshine to one face— No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost— Then count that day as worst than lost.
We dedicate this issue of Seasons to those who died and whose families we served from July 30, 1998, through November 5, 1998.
Mr. Evan Rogers Rees, Jr. 7/30/98
Mrs. Ila Faye White Inmon 7/31/98
Mr. Thomas Earl "Tommy" Patterson 8/1/98
Mr. James Aubrey Conner, Sr. 8/1/98
Mr. Marvin Jacob "Jack" Haynes, Jr. 8/1/98
Mr. Sam E. Smith, Jr. 8/5/98
Mrs. Clara Mae Walker Gooch 8/6/98
Mrs. Irene White Adams 8/9/98
Dr. John Elon Phay 8/10/98
Mrs. Mary Geneva Still Stone 8/13/98
Mrs. Clara Mae Hale Caldwell 8/13/98
Mrs. Helen Marie MeCain Mooney 8/14/98
Mrs. Sadye Murphrey Cooper 8/14/98
Mrs. Kathleen DeLashmit 8/14/98
Mrs. Genevieve Leah Reynolds Small 8/20/98
Mr. Tracie Edward Briscoe 8/20/98
Mrs. Agnes Barnett Dabney 8/21/98
Mr. Robert Milton West 8/26/98
Mr. Nathan Alridge Foster 9/2/98
Mr. Lonzo Tarver 9/3/98
Mr. Walter Glen Klepzig 9/7/98
Mrs. Olivia Margaret Steams 9/10/98
Mrs. Rozelle Davis Barbee 9/13/98
Mr. Francis S. Scott 9/14/98
Mr. Jessie Ellis "Bud" Howell, Jr. 9/21/98
Dr. Charles M. "Bo" Murry, Jr. 9/21/98
Christopher Alban Bernet 9/21/98
Zachary Spencer "Zack" Walls 9/22/98
Mr. Lenox K. King 9/30/98
Mr. James Robert Redding 10/2/98
Mr. Dillard Ellis King, Jr. 10/4/98
Mr. William Alva Nolen 10/5/98
Mr. Donald Garland "Don" O’Dell 10/7/98
Miss Gladys Lorene Fitch 10/11/98
Mrs. Rebecca Davis Paschall 10/12/98
Mrs. Winnie Gates Crockett 10/12/98
Mr. Willie L. Sessions 10/17/98
Mr. Clarence Edmond Cannon 10/21/98
Mr. Charles Donald Sandlin 10/22/98
Mr. Travis Hale Fooshee 10/23/98
Mr. Roger Sherman Myers 10/25/98
Mrs. Jimmie K. Kitchens Hickey 10/31/98
The Rev. Robert John Dodwell 11/1/98
Mr. William H. "Buck" Gossett 11/5/98
Miss Velma Lee Walker 11/5/98
Because of the somber nature of our business, we shy away from seasonal greetings including" merry" and "happy". We know that the holiday season can be difficult for those who have not recovered from the grief of the loss of a loved one. We do, however, wish for all the best possible holiday season. May the important things in life—faith, hope, and love—bring comfort and peace to all.
As in the past, we have grief helps specifically prepared to help the grieving through the holiday season. These helps will be sent to those families we have served since Christmas 1997. We will gladly share copies of this material with anyone else who requests them for themselves or for others they think might find them helpful.
Also, as in the past, we have beautiful inspirational calendars available for the asking at the Funeral Home. Dashboard calendars are available too.
We are proud to be a part of the Oxford-Lafayette County-University of Mississippi community. We thank you for letting us serve you. The Funeral Home staff is committed to compassionate, professional assistance to all those we serve.