When we lose a dear friend, someone we have loved deeply, we are left with a grief that can paralyse us emotionally for a long time. People we love become part of us. Our thinking, feeling and acting are codetermined by them. When they die a part of us has to die too. That is what grief is about: It is that slow and painful departure of someone who has become an intimate part of us. But as we let go of them they become part of our "members" and as we "re-member" them, they become our guides on our spiritual journey.” Henri Nouwen August 26, 2018, Henri Nouwen Society, Daily Meditation, from Bread for the Journey, henrinouwen.org
The God of my understanding does not give us a person we love deeply and then let that relationship end with the death of that person. Ours is a God of love. The love from that companion we so deeply cared about is still there with us. We are still in relationship with that person but in a way we do not understand. Their love does not stop. Our love for them does not stop. Death is not a period at the end of a sentence, but more like a comma.
Sometimes when we bring to memory events and ordinary and special times with the person we loved, we will also feel their presence and their wisdom. We can still talk to them in this new relationship that is still a mystery. Nouwen believes that we sometimes can be even more intimate in this relationship than in life. It is their love that we feel. Love is what continues and never dies.
Some people find it helpful to wear a piece of jewelry or clothing as a physical reminder of a relationship that is now spiritual. Our loved ones are now in some way always present with us while in life they were only present when they were physically with us.
The grief recovery work that we have been involved with for at least twenty years called Walking the Mourner’s Path believes that one of the most helpful ways to stay in relationship with our loved one is to do something to honor the relationship we had. Amazing transformations have occurred. People have started suicide prevention programs, built walking trails, written books, developed new careers in helping professions, built halfway houses for those in recovery, given land where their loved one died to habitat for humanity.
For myself, I returned to church and stopped smoking when my Grandfather Whaley died to honor him. My grandfather’s love cared for me while he lived and saved my life even in death. I still feel his presence today even almost forty years since his death, and especially as I write about him this morning and now send that love on to my own grandchildren.