Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Aftermath

Every family is different. What seems completely normal to one person can seem strange to another.

I was raised in an charismatic, non-denominational Christian family. We were the kind of family that was there everytime the doors opened. It's all I knew for the first thirty years of my life. It was a mega-church before there really were mega-churches.

When there was a death in the extended "church family", someone called the pastor, then friends were called, and within hours there were dozens of people, calling the family, stopping by the hospital, or stopping by the house.

Then the parade of casseroles began. Often, a family who had lost a loved one, could go for weeks without having to prepare a meal, their refrigerator full of Tupperware with names written on the lids.

The summer I graduated from high school, a new family to the church lost their 19 year old son in a car accident. When everyone heard the news, a steady flow of people showed up at their house, stopping by to express their condolences and asking what could be done. When I sat in the backyard with the young man's older brother we had a conversation I have never forgotten.

He told me that he always thought it was strange when someone died and everyone showed up at the house with food in hand. As we talked that afternoon, he had changed his mind. He understood. It's good to have people around, their presence was soothing, and also a great distraction from the grief.

Ever since, I have never hesitated to drop everything and go be with people when they have lost someone. You may have no words of wisdom, but your presence is all that matters.

We all grow up in families, and what we know of life, we know from them.

When you marry someone, you join their family as well. The Husband's family comes from a different place. Literally and philosophically. It was certainly strange navigating the unfamiliar waters with a family very different from my own. I felt as if I was trying to help them with one hand tied behind my back. I don't think I did a very good job.

When it's all said and done, we can only do the best we can. We can examine our own heart, and make sure our intentions are noble. If we are paying attention, we can try and do better the next time around. And yes, the "next time" will come.

It always does.

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