Sunday, June 21, 2015

The two handles by which to handle grief - A response to the Charleston Church Murders

Taken from excepts of "Just Thoughts of a Plain Country Woman" by Lucile Ellingwood Morrow, published in The Collinsville News, August 14, 1947 

With the recent tragedy of the Charleston Church killings, I came across this article, written by my grandmother almost 70 years ago.  I could not help but think of  those nine families and hope that they reach out to grasp the handle of grief that will lead them to the other side.

"I cannot truthfully' say with Grace Noll Crowell that I am glad for all the sorrow I have had, for that would mean that I am either glad, indifferent or untouched by the first great sorrow of my childhood when one whom I loved dearly died very suddenly and, since it was my first experience with death, I was inconsolable.  I can never be glad, even after many years, that as a young woman I lost, my only sister who was my perfect complement: what I lacked, she had, and what she lacked, I had; many people thought we were twins, so inseparable were we, and seemingly half of me died that June morning when she died on the road to town from our ranch home. Then a few years later, Father left us, and again when our baby daughter lay like a beautiful, waxen doll among the flowers from
friends and neighbors, and we had lost our first born, we knew grief
again; yet never have I been truly glad for any sorrow I have had however much it has enabled me to understand and sympathize with others.
Trouble, though, has two handles by which it may be borne: kindness to others in sorrow and courage in our own; so if, when death, loss, sickness, shame come, we can let them sweeten 
and gentle our spirit so that we may have words to say to others hurt, dismayed along life's way, then, we shall be richer for our loss, our grief, in sharing another's.
Take sorrow by the handle of self pity and resentment and you will become too lonely to live; take it by the handle of sympathy and your loss shall be transplanted into new power to help all others who suffer. 
When I was very young and sorrows came, I took them by the handle of constant tears, I held them close to my heart and wept, but as I've older grown, I've learned that grief will thrive on tears and that it is wrong to yearn and grieve without ceasing and that grief will find a permanent abode in the heart that seeks happiness even in the midst of trouble.
One of the most difficult problems of suffering in our lives is that of untimely death the passing of a young husband and father or wife and mother, of a boy who is the light of his middle-aged parents' eyes, the loss of the one and only child, or the monstrous death toll of our young people exacted by our murderous wars. 
In every instance, comes the cry, "Why?" "Oh, Why?" "How can I 
bear it?"
It may be presumptuous for me to even attempt to alleviate the pain of those in such tragic distress, "fools I rush in where angels fear to tread" but, having had four losses in my life that were seemingly uncalled for and unbearable, I have sought and found one or two answers to my question that lift the burden somewhat for me.
Gradually, I ceased asking, "Why?"
The cause of death is the answer to that question.  A bad heart, tuberculosis, accident, hurricane, ignorance, war-in fact, any infraction of nature's laws, or God's answers the question, "Why?"
So, I separated "God" from "Why?" Maybe it is unorthodox and
does not answer all the questions that arise, but I cannot feel that God does these agonizing things to us. That takes away the idea of punishment, or a lesson to be learned, I feel that God is as grieved as we, over the heartbreaking tragedies in our lives. God is love. The love of God is never failing.

The laws of nature are inevitable and inexorable, and he who breaks them, pays the price. The laws of  health and life are as steady as the laws of the universe; they are our best friends and assurance of safety and accomplishment when we regard tragic as the results are and blameless them, but, if broken, they slay us,
as we may be. And surely we should not blame God, or expect Him to set aside the universe laws in answer to our prayers, even uttered in great agony of spirit. 
Some folk say, "Well, it was just his time to go, it is God's will." I
cannot feel that way, for, if we are to live till our time to die, regardless of the abuses we heap upon ourselves, what is the use of calling in a doctor, taking precautions, having operations, or using any of the miraculous discoveries of medicine and surgery being 
used so successfully nowadays? And surely it is not God's will that so many of our young people should be killed ~n war!
Therein lies the solution to another great question, "How can I bear it?"
When we realize that God could not answer prayers contrary to nature's laws, or His own, we cease to feel that our prayers are unanswered, and, instead, ask for strength, and peace and fortitude to carry on. But, since we answer most of our prayers, ourselves,
we must try to do some of the things we ask for. We must cultivate
strength, and peace, and happiness, otherwise our bitterness and sullen hatred raise a barrier in our hearts; if we dedicate our lives to sorrow and self pity, we build a most unworthy monument to those we mourn.
Then pray. "Be not afraid to pray -to pray is right." Sometimes your
prayers will be demanding and urgent -sometimes, a wordless, submissive resignation, but ever pray, leaning hard on the everlasting arms of faith.
Your answer will come.
Another comforting thought is the knowledge that I am not alone in suffering. I cannot think that I should be ever glad if The Boy had been sacrificed in war, but had this terrible blow fallen I would have known that we were only as many thousands of others, the world over, are today; they are keeping the faith, though
and I, too must. The fellowship of pain is a healing bond.