Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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When Tragedy Happens

What do you do when tragedies happen? When someone loses a family member?

We had that happen in the company yesterday. A young woman passed away. It was sudden, unexpected and horrible. She left four children and a heartbroken family. What do you do?

My first response is to hide. My heart breaks for the family. (We’ve known three generations of this family.) And pray.

If at all possible, I stay out of the way. My dad’s response is to take food. And as my boss, he usually assigns the task to me. So I go to the store and buy stuff the family can eat when they feel like it, even though they won’t be hungry again for weeks and weeks.

Then I take it to the family.

But you have to talk. You can’t just drop off the food and not say anything. What do you say to someone who just had their heart torn out?

I’m curious about how other religions comfort grieving loved ones. Do they suggest that the family member’s next life will end more happily? Or that they’ve been absorbed by God? Or maybe that they’re with their ancestors? I’m not being disrespectful. I’m really curious.

As a Christian, I depend on God to do my talking for me. What comes out is the Hope we have in Glory. I know not everyone is going to spend eternity with Jesus, and I almost never have an idea of a person’s spiritual wellbeing. (Unless I really know them.)

But what comfort is there if Heaven isn’t waiting? How do people who don’t believe in God live through the pain?

Who, besides Jesus, can give us the joy of knowing we’ll be with our loved ones once again?

When I had to tell our boys about a family tragedy when they were small, I spoke from my heart. I told them that the loved ones we lost were luckier than the rest of us. They got to go be with Jesus first, while the rest of us had to stay here.

It didn’t stop the pain (nothing could) but at least I reminded my babies that we will be with them again. We’ll be together in His presence for eternity.

And what could be more wonderful than that?