I’m married now. Marriage was never my goal, but I came to a point where I made a conscious and careful decision. I was very disciplined to safeguard myself from responding or making decisions out of loneliness. However, intentional processing, facing my loss, and healing gave birth to the openness to a relationship with someone.
But not just any someone.
I had been considering, praying for, and seeking counsel about Amanda Dimperio for over a year when I asked her out. As an aside, she is more than I even dreamed she would be. Let’s just say I was right in my initial observations made from a distance.
Amanda and I have talked incessantly, and in one discussion we recalled an event early in my grief. I was on a trip to Amsterdam for a meeting of missionaries. Amanda was there also. Imagine lots of families with children all rising every morning to grab breakfast before the day’s meetings and activities. Then imagine a man at the meeting in the sixth month of grief. You walk in, see the beehive of activity, and you go sit alone. Breakfast is a task to get done before taking kids to children’s activities and getting to worship and Bible study or the rest of the day. Who has time to sit with a grieving man? Besides, people just don’t know what to do with you.
I’m reminded of a heart-warming quote by C. S. Lewis. He compares grievers to lepers. What a blessing, right?
“Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.” C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
Lewis was in the depths of his grief, and he masterfully relives his grief for all to observe in his book. Take note, it’s a grief observed and not a grief resolved. It’s raw, real, and gives permission to grieve. His book of his experience gave me permission to grieve well. However, this comparison of mourners to lepers is not exactly the stuff of sweet devotional thoughts.
Amanda, my new bride, and I went to a funeral for a friend, Betty. George is a colleague, and his loss hit us all. Sometime after we took our seats, we were all asked to stand in honor of the family. Within two weeks, at another funeral for April, we did the same thing. We stood as the family paraded in to take their seats.
I had a flashback of pain.
I remembered my own walk into the church over three years before while everyone stood for my family. It’s intended to be a moment to honor the family. It’s intended to show solidarity. Support. It’s intended to show the family that all their friends stand with them in the wake of their loss.
However, my flashback carried with it some memories of the torture. I did not ask to be there. I did not ask to be paraded. I remember feeling like a leper, an outcast, or an undesirable. I remember it feeling like I was being forced onto a stage. I wanted to refuse to play the part. As George and his family walked in, I was in pain for them and for myself. Just over a week later, as Peter and Ray and the family walked in, I was in pain for them and for myself.
I’m not suggesting a change to this tradition. It does, indeed, show honor and care for those who are hurting. It’s a good ritual. It really is. But it carries with it pain. It’s almost a reality check. It’s almost forcing reality in the faces of the family like a pie thrown in the face. You have lost someone of significance, and now we’re going to parade you in as we all stare at you on your lonely stage. This ritual of honor forces acknowledgement on the part of the mourners. No denial is allowed.
If you’re attending a funeral, realize the pain endured in that moment by the family. If you’re walking in the parade of torture, realize it’s a part of the ritual to help you face your loss.
One foot in front of the other.
“If we follow him we may find the steepest cliff a path of pleasantness and the lowest vale of humiliation a highway to peace.” Theodore Cuyler, God’s Light on Dark Clouds