Memorial Day is for honoring and remembering the sacrifices of those who have died for us at war, as well as beloved members of our family. We might also do well to honor and remember those living with the permanent physical, emotional and spiritual wounds of war: lost limbs, TBI, PTSD and other wounds. And even those among us suffering sickness, divorce, unemployment, relocation.
You may feel awkward and clueless as to what to say or do around someone who is suffering loss. You may fear to bring fresh pain acknowledging their suffering and loss. But ignoring suffering and loss doesn’t help. Honoring and remembering can. So what is the right thing to say? What is the right way to be with someone who is suffering?
In Sunday’s gospel Jesus confronts his impending separation from his disciples head on. He will not be beside them any longer. But he will send the Advocate, the one who will speak at our sides, the Holy Spirit. And they will find their way with the Spirit into new life. The disciples had to learn to rely on the Spirit. And you can learn to rely on the Spirit, too, to help you find the way to come alongside someone in time of loss.
There isn’t any formula for accompanying a friend or loved one or neighbor through suffering and loss. But the simplest words and actions often work best. Come alongside them, acknowledge by your presence and your words that you know something about the difficulty of suffering and loss.
Simply honoring and remembering the losses we suffer can be a source of great power to bind up the brokenhearted, to heal a family or community, and help us take steps forward with renewed purpose toward a new life in which those we love walk beside us, just as our Lord has promised.