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Our Words

Words.  A story has been playing through my mind.  Words continue to fill my mind as I think of memories.  One memory of long ago flooded my mind in a meeting. It was a difficult time in my life. I was attending the memorial service of my boyfriend who drowned a few days before.  Preparing for that service was difficult.  My friends and I wrote a eulogy that was read during the service.  All the students on campus were invited to come.  Larry's family was going to be there.  I was hurting deeply.  There were so many memories that I'd shared with Larry during the two years that I'd known him. It was difficult to believe that all of that had suddenly ended.  He was gone.  I could no longer have long talks on the phone, go on walks or engage in any of his new adventures. It had all suddenly ended. Darkness enveloped me. Sorrow pierced through my heart and mind.  Moving forward took one difficult step after another. The memorial service marked the finality of everything.  He was gone but sometimes when I was asleep I would envision it being just a dream.  Then I would wake up to the reality and again the pain enveloped me.  To know that his life was suddenly gone was so difficult to bear.  He was twenty and at the prime of his life. So much lay ahead of him.  But just like that his enthusiasm, vibrancy, and excitement for life were taken away from all of us.  Embracing this fact would take lots of time to get used to.  And then there was his memorial service that I had to face.  Going through the doors of the campus church that night was difficult.  Thankfully I had friends attending with me.  Without their support, I don't think I would have made it.  I knew that I had to talk to his family and encourage them because just like me they were hurting as well.  But this was something I'd never faced before.  Yes, my great grandparents had passed away years before but they lived all the way across the country and they were in their nineties when they died.  This was the funeral of a young man, someone who shouldn't have died.  It was something none of us expected.  Young people are supposed to outlive their parents, begin a career, get married and have a family of their own.  All of this had suddenly vanished.  He was gone.  There was a finality to his life here on this earth.  The hole this left in my life was huge.  Grief clung thickly around me.  When the service was over I finally had the opportunity to talk with Larry's Dad and family.  I tried to be encouraging to them.  Now all these years later I'm not sure what I said.  All I remember is his Dad's words and hugging him.  His words cut me like a knife, "This won't be as difficult for you as it will be for us because you didn't know him as long as we did." All I could do was say God he doesn't understand.  Forgive him, Lord.  He's not trying to be mean.  In his own hurt and pain, he just doesn't get it.  But I have never forgotten those words.  I never let them damage me.  I just knew that he was so wrong.  Grief has clung to me thickly since Larry died 26 years ago.  A day hasn't passed without a recollection of this event.  It has shaped and defined who I am today.  There is a hole in my heart.  I will never be the same person ever again.  

I share this not because I want to be mean to this man but because I want us to realize that in difficult situations like this, words have an impact on a person.  In situations that are stressful and challenging and we don't know what to say it is better that we simply zip our lips, shut our mouths and say nothing at all.  It is the presence that means the most to a person who is hurting.  It is knowing that they care enough to be there with us.  This is what brings comfort the most.

Words can make or break us. Years ago I had another situation happen. I went to talk to the pastor of my church.  Shortly after I walked in he asked me, "How is your courage?"  It was an open-ended question.  But that question irritated me. Courage?  What was he trying to say?  So many thoughts flooded my mind.  I exhibited courage in all areas of my life.  it took me courage to get up in the morning, to raise my children as a single mom, to juggle work and kids, to walk into church as a single mom . . .  But it wasn't courage that took me to his office that day, it was pain and brokenness that led me there.  Suddenly, I felt unable to talk to him.  Too many feelings and emotions swarmed through my mind. I couldn't see through the forest of emotions I was feeling to make any sense of my thoughts.  There was no way to express these things to him.  Where would I even start?  Instead, I focused on telling him facts. His office was the same office my step dad's office had been years before when he was head of the same hospital department. I would also talk to him about the church. Beyond that, I would answer only the questions he asked. This was the only way I would survive the meeting with a new pastor I hardly knew without bursting into tears.  Staying glued together was my only way of surviving.  He talked about how we need to find safe people and I knew then and there that he was not a safe person. I couldn't open up to him so I didn't. The second time he asked me this question I just responded with, "good." Then I fled to the bathroom to cry.  It took a long time for me to recover.  From then on I chose to simply avoid him.  

Words. They can make or break us. My prayer is that we become people who are willing to be silent in times of difficulty.  May we be people who seek God for wisdom when talking to people.  When we don't know what to say may we just remain silent. Encouragement and support can be expressed sometimes better non verbally than verbally.  God, I ask that you fill all of us with wisdom to know what to say to the people you bring into our lives. May we be people of encouragement, love, and support.  

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