Grief, Two Fish and Five Loaves

Normal

When I hear a story, I try to relate the words I’m hearing to events in my own life.  It’s common for words to touch me in a different way than they might touch you or someone else. That is the magical impact of storytelling with each of us internalizing the message based on our own history.

The story of the multiplication of the two fish and five loaves of bread was read a few Sundays ago. As a Christian woman I’ve heard this story many times before. While the gospel focused on the miracle of the multiplication of the fish and loaves, my thoughts went in a different direction.  As I sat there listening, I wondered why Jesus who always used parables to illustrate his points did not do so in the story of the loaves and fish and chose action instead. He did not explain to the apostles that he would give them enough food for the crowd.  He just told them to take the fish and the loaves of bread and pass them to the people.  Did the people who gathered that day wonder where the food came from?  Did they know that they were participants in a miracle?

In this particular story Jesus asked that everyone be gathered into small groups of 50 or so. Why not just one big crowd I wondered. I think it’s because small groups of people gathered together can talk and truly hear each other speak. I think the small group format gives each of us the opportunity to listen, to speak and be heard. Isn’t it like that with grief?  During times of difficulty, when we most need it we want to speak and be heard and we also want to hear words of comfort and encouragement.  Whatever that loss is we want to be heard, to be surrounded and comforted by people who truly allow us to be heard. I think those who sat and ate the fish and loaves of bread shared just such an opportunity that day.

The disciples were instructed to take the fish and loaves of bread and distribute them to the crowd without explanation from Jesus. There was no discussion that there might not be enough food for everyone to eat.  They were simply instructed to distribute the food. To me, this action speaks loudly of holding on to trust. Trust that our needs will be taken care of, even when it appears that there is “not enough”. Not enough food, not enough time, not enough of whatever our need is. It is the belief that our needs will be taken care of when we are in need and in the way that we need to be cared for. In grief we may need someone to offer us comfort and often there is someone who shows up to attend to us. Sometimes from the person from whom we may least expect it or in a way that we could not have imagined or anticipated. I believe the story of the loaves and fish illustrates this beautifully.

One final thought on this story.  Sunday morning listening to the story it occurred to me that sometimes we are the answer to someone else’s need. Sometimes I am the answer called on, to be the one offering help to those in grief or in need.  Sometimes I am the person who needs the help.

This sermon made me realize that sometimes I am the instrument used to provide someone else’s miracle. Sometimes I am the one needing the miracle. In my life,  I have played both the giver and the receiver.  I hope that I can answer the call no matter what role I am called upon to fill today.

Fallen Heros

All too often these days, news reaches me that really makes me sad.  The recent news story about  Oscar Pistorious has me feeling down.  His life’s story, from his amputated legs as a child to his rise to Olympic star has been such an inspiration to me and many others around the world.

The tragic new about the death of Oscar’s girlfriend remind me that in an instant, everything can change.  In an instant, things can go from great to tragic.  One can say “that’s life” but it is a lot more than that.  What do you do when someone you admire is suddenly cast in a different light?

Everyone acknowledges that death or tragedy are situations where one grieves.  But Oscar’s fall from grace has moved me grieving. Grieving for another lost hero, something we hear so much about these days.  Sports, finance, actors all too often falter.  Human? Yes.  Sad? Yes.

Death a Bit Removed

The recent death of Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce has been reported in the local newspapers the last few days.  While I did not know him personally, his sudden death at the NJ State House this week did in some ways touch me deeply.  Mr. DeCroce was from my voting District, he lived in the town next to mine, and his funeral service will be at a church that I have attended many times.  Among many others, the Governor of NJ has been emotional about losing a good friend and mentor.

So how did his death affect me?  Well for one thing, it was a reminder that tomorrow is not promised to any of us.  The suddenness of DeCroce’s death caused me to think, “What if it was someone that I loved?” “What if it was me?”  Would I regret not speaking to those I love a bit kinder, a bit more often?

DeCroce’s death also reminded me that I frequently don’t think about the impact I have on others around me.  We interact with so many people over the course of our lifetime, that we all too often, don’t give it a lot of thought.  His death reminded me to stop and think about my impact, to not take it too lightly; to do the best that I can with each encounter that I am a part of.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Coach Linda

How loss, death and grief touch a life

As I begin a new year, January 2012, I thought that I would write each time I am touched by loss to see and share the experience with all of you.  I think the sharing will be a way to heal and touch the lives of those around me.

So far, day 4 of the new year, and I have nothing to write about.  This is good news!  Let me know how your new year is so far.

Coach Linda

Tips for managing grief during the holiday season

The upcoming holiday season may not be the joy-filled event for everyone that those familiar, every present Christmas songs reminisce about.  For some of us, the holidays will be filled with sadness as we navigate through the loss and death of a loved, loss of any kind such as job loss, divorce or even retirement.  These are painful days that stretch out before us.  Letting go of expectations, traditions, hope all take work….and time.

Grieving is unique for each person.  There is no timetable, no easy way around grief.  With that in mind, I have put together some tips for managing your emotions this holiday season. 

1. Allow others to comfort you.
2. Plan for the upcoming holidays — don’t just let them unfold.
3. Give yourself permission to go slower than your normal pace.
4. Stay connected with your feelings.
5. Talk over plans with family members and friends.
6. Make a ritual of passing on traditions that are observed each holiday.
7. Think about doing something different for this holiday.
8. Do what is right for you.
9. Don’t put yourself under unnecessary stress.
10. Reach out and help others this holiday season.

Death of a Legend

The passing of Tony Curtis is the topic of news sites, blogs, websites, etc. today.  With the death of a legend, the news media pulls out old movie clips, headlines and other memorabilia as a way to honor and remind us of someone who has touched our lives.  One article I read said “Curtis maybe gone, but his legacy lives on”.

The legacy comment got me to thinking.  What does it take to create a legacy?  What are the things worth being remembered for?  While I don’t really have the answers, I would be interested in your thoughts.

Most of the people I know who have died were not the ones the media writes about but they were important people in my life.  Curtis’ passing brought to my mind some pretty significant people who touched my life in some pretty significant ways. I have been glad for the opportunity to know them, experience them as part of my life and sad to say goodbye to them when they died.  I know that cycle of living and dying will continue.  Seems to serve as a reminder to pay attention to how I want to be remembered. Curtis’ life is one worth looking back on, hope mine will be too.  What about you?

What 9/11 Taught Me

I remember a friend visiting me in New Jersey one month after the 9/11 attack . He said he wanted to go into New York City to see the World Trade Center site.  So we made the trip into the city.  At that time, emergency teams were still searching for bodies in the pile of concrete, steel, and ashes.  While we could only get within one block of the actual tower site, the streets were filled American flags, stickers and banners proclaiming support and love for those lost in the towers.  Many people signed white sheets that were hung everywhere and visitors were everywhere.  You could feel the heaviness in the air and the grief was apparent on so many faces.  It was an unbelievable experience for me and for my friend from Texas and in the years since then I have frequently thought back to that day. I asked myself “what did I learn that day”?

The one thing that stands out in my mind is that on 9/11/2001 I learned that life can change in an instant.  Suddenly I became very aware of what is important, what matters most to me.  Hopefully the lesson isn’t lost as time passes.

Grieving is a process that takes whatever time it takes.  There is no timetable that works for everyone.  It is true for the sadness and loss that each of us felt, and feels, about the events of September 11th.  While it is true for all loss, it is something that we don’t always acknowledge.  The collective grieving that continues each year offers hope of  healing as we focus on what is important, what is of real value in life.  For me, that is to appreciate and value the people in my life every day. try to keep this lesson in my heart.  The September 11 anniversary is a reminder for me once again that life is unpredictable.