When my dad died suddenly I was 13 years old, and the first person to come to our house was our priest. Our dinner that night and for many nights after was prepared by church members. For weeks, months, quite possibly years after the death of my father, it was the church community that continued to love and support me.
As you may have seen, this last Friday a kindergartner from Breck drowned at a pool party he was attending with school friends. This is an incredible tragedy.
When the family arrived at the hospital the first person that met them was Kate Stebinger, an Episcopal priest who works as a hospital chaplain. Shortly thereafter all three school division chaplains as well as the lower school counselor and director were at the hospital. Over the weekend other school counselors and administration provided care and communication to the rest of the Breck community.
On Monday morning the chaplains, counselors, administrators, teachers and myself were there as we gathered with students and their parents as we remembered and gave thanks for this charismatic, young boy who lived just a short six years.
As I talked to Nicky’s parents, grandparents and others who came out to be with them, over and over again the question was asked, how would someone make it through such a tragedy without a supportive faith community?
My literal answer: I have no idea. Both personally and, as it were professionally, I can’t imagine what it would be like to encounter such devastating, complete life-changing loss without the love and care of a faith community.
This experience once again reminds me to truly be grateful for the blessing of being a part of such loving and supportive faith community – and – it also reminds me to continue to be intentional about inviting to others to join.
3 thoughts on “The blessing of community in difficult times”
Thank you brian for this postz. I too have no idea how someone, anyone, can make it through.. ( is it through) a tragedy without a faith community. When I woke up on March 20, after being diagnosed 12 hours earlier with a brain tumor- guess who was the first person I saw at 6:45 am- wonderful Nancy b, who was followed by many others that day who sat vigil while my tumor was removed. Showing up is what makes a difference and similar to nicky’s family, we have been surrounded. It is wonderful, unbelievable, humbling and life saving and life giving.
Brian, thanks for this reflection. Like you, when asked how one can go through this kind of loss and separation without a faith community, I have responded as you did “I have no idea.” Likewise, I have witnessed the tremendous care and compassion of several faith communities in response to a sudden and tragic loss. Prayers ascend from the desert for Nicky’s family, for those who knew and loved Nicky, and for you (plural) who minister to family and friends in their hour of need.
From what I have read and experienced, parents who have lost a child either feel tremendously supported or tremendously abandoned. Those who have support are indeed blessed. Honestly, though, sometimes there is no community carry you when and for as long as necessary. I, too, encourage those surrounding those who deeply grieve to step forward instead of pulling away. When the instinct is to step back, that is the time to step up instead. Support can make all the difference in the world…lack of both immediate and ongoing support makes the loss much more difficult to handle.
Thank you for your post.