Wednesday, April 22, 2009


"There's nothing you can say, he told me with a shrug, looking intently into my tear-filled eyes with his own. "There's nothing you can say." And so I hugged him tightly, adding my tears to those already blended on the shoulder of his jacket, and I didn't say anything at all.

It was Good Friday. He had just lost his twelve year old daughter after a long, hard fight against the insidious evil that is cancer. There are no words for these moments. Only tears.

Tim was a friend and colleague. We had gone through grad school together, and despite a mutual disdain for one another at the very beginning, by the time we worked together there had grown a deep respect and an amusing fondness between us. Though I had moved away a year or so earlier, while Lin was in remission, I had kept abreast of Lin's recurrence through Tim's email updates, maintaining that connection within my heart. That Friday, my heart was aching with the need to speak something that could not be articulated, but only felt.

There is something about the silence of grief—the void created by loss—that compels those of us around to fill that space with well-meaning words. I felt it then, I feel it now. That helpless, I-want-to-make-it-all-better feeling that drives so much of what I write and say and do. But despite my clinical training and my carefully-crafted prose and even my very best intentions, I can't make anything better. And I can't quite come to peace with that.

I re-read my attempt to process another Good Friday funeral, and I find myself wanting to delete my words. "No, no, no—I said it all wrong," I think to myself. I remember Jill at women's group, this past week, graciously dodging our often mis-aimed attempts to say the right thing, and I wish I'd just never said anything at all.

I have to step back and remember who these words were really written for. Often the words we speak are often the words we ourselves need to hear. This was certainly the case with this post. As I wrestled with my own questions of faith, brought too close to the surface by David's death, I spoke, unaware, to the reassurances I, myself, needed to hear. Perhaps they will bless others, perhaps not. But my heart was more at peace for having written them.

Sometimes it is best to keep quiet. To listen, to cry, to hold. To not attempt to speak what is truly not speak-able. But sometimes our own hearts must grapple to put words to that which alludes words, no matter how clumsily we may do so. For me, it is this process within which God speaks the perfect Word, and that is, after all, what we're all longing to hear.

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