Monday, November 12, 2007

Death Be Not Shamed

We've decided to meet for breakfast at least once every couple of weeks, more often if the need arises. Grief is a lonely process for anyone, in this man's case I believe being alone could be toxic.

He's a funny guy, a former neighbor...his wife died, and I didn't know. We'd been in touch since her cancer diagnosis but when last I spoke with her she was upbeat, the treatments seemed to be defying the odds, and...well, I made the mistake of thinking "no news is good news."

Turns out she died on August 29th, the same day I was in Dallas for the funeral of a dear family friend. It wasn't until two weeks later that I thought it had been too long since I'd made contact so I called only to have her husband tell me his wife was dead, buried, and he was alone out in the country where they had built their "retirement home."

He hasn't handled it well, and it's been made worse by circumstances so distasteful I wish I could distract my mind from dwelling on them. I will have to force myself to do that, because I know that's what God wants me to help my friend do.

Suffice it to say his bride's "adult" children from her previous marriage robbed this poor man before his wife's funeral was even finalized. They stormed into the house and ransacked the place, taking almost everything that wasn't nailed down. Things they had no right to, things that were just "things"...their mother would be heartbroken. My friend was too absorbed in the aimless morass of mortality's reality that he didn't know what to do, or say...they even took the family address book, so he didn't know who to call. So he suffered...alone...for far too long.

These "kids" never accepted my friend during his 16-years of marriage to their mother and made that quite obvious at every opportunity. He tolerated it, because he loved their mother. Now it's all different.

We've had several long talks over the phone, over dinner a week or so ago, breakfast this morning. I think I'll be eating out a lot more in the months ahead.

When we talk, I do my best to remind him there is justice in this world and beyond...and in this world he has lawyers who can right some of the damage, while in the next world the ultimate justice will be fulfilled. Still he is angry and he is so very lost.

We've talked about the true value of money, that the things that were taken are not worth anything if they take away from his time to grieve and grow, and we've talked about his desire for revenge. It's natural to feel that way. We've had heartfelt conversations about God, and Heaven and forgiveness...but I can tell it's going to take a lot more conversations and more coffee than either of us should be drinking these days.

There's no disputing he's been robbed, but because of that bit of petty thievery, he's suffered a grand theft. The memories of his wife are now dominated by a few remarks she made months if not years ago which suddenly have planted a deep seed of doubt in his mind about his entire marriage, usurping years of memories of a deep abiding love to which I was a close witness.

There are stages of grief. I know them well. However I never have walked those stages before with someone who has literally been robbed of the actual onset of heartbreak.

Greed trumped his very first grapplings with grief.

So very much was stolen that day.

Those "children" may have a pile of "things" all of which will eventually crumble, fade or be forgotten.

Due to their selfishness however, none of those "things" will tarnish as quickly as their mother's memory has in the heart of the man who devoted so much of his life to loving her.

I'm going to be having a lot of breakfasts in the months ahead...

God help me to find the wisdom and patience to help my friend make those meals fulfilling, sustaining and far easier to swallow.