While pondering together Henri Nouwen’s words: “Out of his solitude Jesus reached out his caring hand to the people in need. In the lonely place his care…” a sudden strange look came across my husband, Larry’s, face. He asked to lie down. In the process he forgot how to move his legs, and began grabbing for unseen things. He became non-verbal, attempted to communicate with gestures, and fell into a coma. By 7 p.m., I was informed he was dying. The following morning, as we attempted to honor his wish to die at home surrounded by family, CT scan results indicated he suffered a “brain bleed.” He would not survive a trip home. Our children arrived just in time to say “I love you” before he took his last breath. We were overwhelmed with disbelief and shock.
Diagnosed with cancer and weak, Larry was admitted to the hospital two days earlier for nourishment to strengthen him for our trip to Seattle for further testing.
Four months later, protective numbness has transitioned into reality. I am wandering in an unfamiliar world. Though Larry and I taught and walked with many through bereavement, my responses surprise me.
The grief I knew when my parents died has lifted. The grief Larry and I shared at the death of our daughter, three years ago, has not. Even though many share my grief, I still find myself alone without the support and strength of my beloved soulmate. In the most unexpected moments and places, the momentousness of Larry’s death surges over me and I am face to face with unimaginable suffering.
Seeking spiritual comfort, I contemplate and embrace my sorrow. I bring my deepest needs and greatest fears into God’s compassionate love, knowing God grieves, weeps, guards my heart and mind and stays with me until the pain of my grief passes through me. Grief demands that I redefine myself. I know my sorrow will transform into greater insight, growth, peace, love and wisdom. I will move on and discover my renewed purpose in life without Larry.
As I embrace my own sorrow, my heart and mind also grieves for something greater than myself and the pain of others passes through me. Each of us carries our own burdens of grief.
People across America are experiencing an unprecedented amount of individual and collective grief with catastrophic losses brought on by COVID-19; racism; police brutality; white supremacy; hate crimes; insurrection; false narratives; increased homelessness; poverty; wealth; substance abuse; mental illness; isolation; etc. We are face to face with feelings of powerlessness from our inability to prevent the changes and losses, as we anticipate never ending crisis we cannot control.
As it says in Isaiah 53:4, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”
As we mourn collectively, may we rest in God’s loving hands so our sorrow can bind us together, in one heart and mind, moving us beyond today as we gain greater insight and growth, redefining ourselves as a nation by adapting to change, finding new purpose and proclaiming God’s hope to all the world with empathy, compassion, kindness, peace and love.
For all who mourn, “…no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion. So great is His unfailing love.”–Lamentations 3:31-32
• Laura Rorem is a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church. Her new purpose is to honor Pastor Larry Rorem’s legacy of love, compassion and understanding for all humankind, especially the most vulnerable. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.