To understand what I am going to tell you, you need to know that my parents were scientists and that my mother’s mind had a decidedly unpoetic bent. Nonetheless, they read me poems from the time I was very young because they paid attention to what gladdened my spirit.
We’re not in the sort of culture where “my dad died over a year ago” is an excuse. But when I speak to other people who have lost loved ones, they say it takes two to three years before the wounds heal. I wonder why there is such a disconnect between our personal experience and our expectation of others.
A fragment of a prayer—"Remind me of the person I used to be"—poignantly sums up the theme of Naomi Levy's book about finding one's way back to hope and strength after great grief. Levy was a member of the first class of women admitted to study for the rabbinate at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and the first Conservative woman rabbi to serve a west coast congregation.
For Those We Love But See No Longer: Daily Offices for Times of Grief by Lisa Belcher Hamilton Venite: A Book of Daily Prayer by Robert Benson Celtic Benediction: Morning and Night by J. Philip Newell The Prymer: The Prayer Book of the Medieval Era Adapted for Contemporary Use, translated and adapted by Robert E. Webber
I was out of the country recently when a member of my congregation died. When this happens I feel the pain of being unable to do anything helpful, and a little guilt as well. That’s when I relearn a basic lesson in ecclesiology: I belong to a community of faith that knows how to be a church in my absence.