One friend who understands your tears is more valuable than many who only see your smile. -Unknown
Is there any more devastating human experience than the loss of a loved one? It doesn't matter what our personal beliefs are as to what happens to those we lose once they pass from this world. Whether we believe they are gone forever and death is the end or have deep abiding faith that they're reunited with others who will welcome them home, there still remains in our hearts an empty place where their companionship lived and breathed meaning into our world. That emptiness hurts - and it will for as long as it takes to stop.
The only people who believe there is a time limit on grief are the ones who have never lost a piece of their heart. - Unknown
These times are among the most challenging we'll ever face. They're made less so by the loving compassion of others. As societies we know the universality of loss. We know that we'll all face it at some point if we haven't yet. We build rituals around loss to support the grieving and buoy each other up at such times. These rituals are just as important to those who come to support as for the bereaved. They remind us of our own mortality and the fragility of it - it's fleeting temporary nature. They shine a bright light on the importance of nurturing the relationships we're blessed to have and they give us a chance to dig deep into ourselves and willingly feel the pain of another.
As I attended two separate funerals this week, I was able to see this principle in action. I saw sharing of tears, hugs, and just the quiet holding of each other. I heard stories shared and laughter ringing through the darkness bringing beams of light. I heard a loving vocal performance sung from a soul - not from a throat. I saw cards, and flowers, and photo-memories - but most of all I saw compassion, because all of these things are the face of compassion.
Compassion was in the tearful eyes of those waiting to speak with the family of a lost loved one. I saw it in the ritual gathering itself - people putting their regularly scheduled lives on hold to be present to help shoulder the pain - to make it lighter even if only for that moment. It's been said that God loves us through other people - living angels who minister his love and tenderness. I've seen such angels. At times in our lives we will be called upon to be such angels.