I had no plans to write this article today on loss and suffering. But the more I ponder the life and legacy of “Papa” and the times we are in, I believe more and more it’s a message to share. When hurting and suffering takes over and the complexities of life are weighty, I believe we can learn courage and longsuffering from the passing of a man just last week.
Three years ago in December, my wife underwent brain surgery- she had just given birth to our first child three months prior. In a month, we spent more days in the hospital than out of it. Besides prayer and connecting with loved ones, there’s not a lot you can do. This piece is not about my wife, though, it’s about Joe.
When my wife was at the edge of life and death and a room meant for waiting became one for crying and praying, the support of family and close friends was powerfully existent. But here sat Joe, and his wife Marion. We barely knew them in the grand scheme of things; however, we were suffering, and they wanted to sit with me and the rest of our close ones.
I’ve since learned many stories about this Joe, tough as nails and sweet simultaneously, his impressive life incorporated a long-standing marriage with children and grandchildren, military service, and a faithful pillar in his church. I’m not sure how much, if any, of those things I knew at that time. I only knew he was there to sit. To wait. To be with us.
Grief and suffering are some of the most complex topics on the face of this planet. We all grapple with it philosophically and existentially. The answers are not easy. But there is one thing that typically does not fail in supporting: sit with it. Sit with others as they suffer. Let me share from one of literature’s eponymous books, The Book of Job (in the Bible). Job had a few great friends when he lost nearly everything, and their support was incredible- until they opened their mouths. In the end, everyone ended up saying all sorts of crap that was untrue and without understanding, Job included. The friends did well- for as long as they just sat with their friend.
That’s the gift Joe gave to me in my time of suffering- he sat with it. Though it may be a funeral today, it is truly rejoicing at a life and legacy of a good man.