I sat beside the bedside of a dying friend this week. We were not alone; he was never alone.
Years ago, I sat beside his father’s deathbed. Years ago, this man’s welcoming smile and comforting demeanor lifted me from my lowest. What else could I say but, “Thank you, I love you, Goodbye” in return?
Each bedside during 8 years of hospice chaplaincy was significant and meaning-full to me, but friendship transformed this covenant into a sacrament. I prayed for his loving wife, his children, his family and many friends as I trusted in God’s love and compassion.
When a song lyric entered my mind, I didn’t dare speak it. Billy Joel’s song “And So It Goes” contains the line “and so it goes, and so it goes, and so will you, soon, I suppose.” All too soon.
All too soon, I heard more horrific news of slaughter in Ukraine. I thought of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Slaughterhouse-Five”…. “there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre.” Then I recalled that each mention of death precedes the phrase “so it goes”—how Tralfamadorians view life and death. So it goes.
One man’s death and the impact on family, friends, and me touch my heart in profound ways. I can’t emotionally survive feeling the same about each death caused by a vicious war in Ukraine. So much is beyond my control. Maybe I can have genuine compassion for some as I pray for God’s comfort and peace for every other broken heart.
How have you experienced being with a dying loved one? What do you find helpful in working through your grief? How are you dealing with the international suffering you observe?