May 2016 Newsletter Article
May 1, 2016, 9:00 AM

Grace and peace to each of y’all this month!

April was a crazy month. It was a month full of the highest highs – as we ventured into the majority of the season of Easter. Shouting Alleluia, lighting all the candles in worship, getting to be witness to absolutely gorgeous South Carolina weather.

But, April was also a month full of heartache, sadness, and death. One of our oldest members – Charlie Altman – died. We received news of the death of Elaine and Woody Cornwell’s son. Our community was rocked with the news of man’s body found by a passing driver, Lindy Richardson’s drowning death and the fatal car wreck that took the life of Newberry County Schools Superintendent Mr. Bennie Bennett. All of that happened in one week.

Throughout this past month, the one question I have been continually asked is, “Pastor – what can we do? What can we say?”

We ask because it is difficult to know how best to care and love on those who are grieving. We want to help. We want to be able to bring comfort – in any way we can.

What I have been able to share with those that I have been in ministry with during these very mournful times is to say that there is no word or prayer or act that I or anyone else can do to make the hurt go away; to remove this pain from life. The only thing that I can say and do is be present and to say that God is indeed present in this with you. Even when we don’t know exactly where; we have faith and hope that God is there.

What I think gets us in trouble is that those small things don’t feel like they are ‘enough’ of something to do. We feel we have to say something in order to ‘fill the space’ because we don’t like awkward silences and moments.

We say things like, “There is a reason for everything.” “You’re young, you can have more children.” “God loved him so much, God needed him.” “I know how you feel.”

None of those phrases brings comfort to those experiencing death and loss. In fact, many of the things we think are being helpful end up causing more pain and hurt. When you or someone you know has said those things, they were never meant to cause harm or hurt. They were and are said with the best intentions, but it still doesn’t bring comfort.

So, what then can we do or say? We can sit with someone. Tell them we are praying for them. We can acknowledge that we don’t know what to say, but know that we care. We can offer hugs. We can share a memory of the one who died.

We can be present in the moment with someone. Sometimes the best thing we can do is not say anything at all. We’re just there.

We pray. We are present. We remember that God is here with us – in all of this. No matter what.

As I end this, I want to do so on a lighter not so here is a story from one of my favorite comedians – George Carlin. In one of his final shows before his death he talked about what people say after someone dies that no one really questions. One of those things is directed at the surviving spouse and members of the deceased family, “If there is anything I can do – anything – don’t hesitate to ask.”

Carlin’s response (cleaned up for his language…), “Well fine, you can come over this weekend and paint the garage. Bring your plunger too; the upstairs toilet overflowed. You drive a tractor? Good the north forty needs a lot of attention. Get your chainsaw and pickaxe, we’re going to put you to work.”

When we truly think about what we say, we can come to an understanding that not all of it brings comfort. Though we don’t intend to hurt; we might just inadvertently cause pain.

Sometimes – a lot of time – we don’t need to say anything. We just need to be with the ones we love because they are hurting. What a wonderful reminder that God is present with them – as the community surrounds them and is present as well.

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