Sometimes a few words shed light on one of the major themes of a life, in this case my life. These were the words, “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
After hearing those words, I sat very still for a few seconds. I finally understood one of the themes of my life. Late to arrive there but maybe I wasn’t quite ready until in my late 70s. I realized that theme has battled fiercely and steadily with the major counter theme in my life. That theme is one of hope, of the promises made by the perfect promise maker and keeper, with my decision to be a Christian.
The Gospel is the Good News, the promise that Christ paid the price for our sins, that if we accept that, eternity in heaven is ours. I believe that but there is no way I can discuss the whys and wherefores, share the years of study and prayer in a brief blog. I am sharing that the realization that the quote, “Grief is the price we pay for love” shook me to the core.
Those words are a quote from Dr. Colin Murray-Parkes, a psychiatrist, speaker and author who is a pioneer in the field of grief and death. He works at St. Christopher’s Hospice in London and helped start the Hospice movement. The quote came from his book, Bereavement: Studies of Grief in Adult Life. Here is the quote: “The pain of grief is just as much a part of life as the joy of love: it is perhaps the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment. To ignore this fact, or to pretend that it is not so, is to put on emotional blinkers which leave us unprepared for the losses that will inevitably occur in our own lives and unprepared to help others cope with losses in theirs.”
Helping others through grief was a way of life in my family. I was raised over a funeral home. My dad was a funeral director. My brother followed my dad’s path as did my nephew and a sister through her marriage to a funeral director. My mom was the designated greeter, the woman who sat with those weeping, holding the hands of the grieving.
If I stood at the living room window, I could watch the hearse pull away to a cemetery or observe people entering nearby churches for funerals. I was pretty angry at God for many years. Why let people suffer such loss? I wanted God to answer. I was angry at his silence.
Rather odd since my refuge was the Catholic Church across the street where I could sit in quiet and think. I’d pick a pew right near the huge cross with Christ hanging on it. I’d wonder why he was there, how much it hurt, and what it was all about. I loved the flickering vigil lights, the solitude, the space to try and sort out truths I’d discovered at too young an age.
I care about people, have compassion, sincere concern. But I am uncomfortable with getting overly attached to anyone. I am always alert to the coming good byes, the final farewells, so why even start the greeting, the connection? Yet I repeatedly become attached to people and know people care about me. And I am always waiting for bad and sad news about the loss of someone I love. I know that person is in a place of joy but I am left.
Surrounded by laughter at any event, I hear the sadness to come, marked by the reality that loved ones might be gone sooner rather than later. The other day I was in a church hall where a plaque honoring those gone to be with the Lord listed people. I ran my fingers over the names of two friends, a married couple, gone a year or so apart. I still miss them. I could feel that knot in the throat, swallowed my tears.
That dread of losing a loved one runs through much of what I write. I have a novel in the editing phase and a second half way written. Both have the theme that the price of love is too high to pay. Inside I know it is not. Love is the true meaning of life, our purpose is to share love, to live the Gospel as light and salt.
I think most of us know that grief is the price we pay for love, for loving someone, for having someone love us. And grief is a hard journey to walk. But the loving is grand and glorious in spite of life’s mix of good and hard times.
If you are walking the path of grief today, pause to rejoice, to remember that you are grieving because you loved and were loved. Some deaths are tragic; some come after a long life well lived; some from an unrelenting disease; some from addictions. Death comes in countless ways. Here’s the important part of grieving those inevitable losses. Hold on to whatever good memories you have of the lost one; celebrate those; mourn the loss and honor the power of love. And if you know someone on that journey of grief, keep that person company now and then. Reach out with a hug or a hand hold. Connect in prayer.
That’s it for today. I’ll find something lighter to write next time.