HOLY WEEK – FRIDAY
FINDING MEANING IN THE LOSS
So far this week we have looked at the five stages of grief first described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and how they go along with the events of this week. These five stages are not meant to be prescriptive, a method of tucking away messy emotions into neat boxes, but they are meant to be descriptive of a genera process. Everyone grieves in their own unique way and may cycle round these emotions and go back and forth between a couple from time to time but most people will recognise them as a basic pattern.
Yesterday we dealt with acceptance as we considered Jesus final prayer to God, Father not my will but thine be done. He accepted God’s will, he accepted what was to befall him and he seemed to find a calmness in that acceptance. As we accept the reality of the loss we have experienced we too can achieve a sense of peace. But we should not think that this means that the grieving is over, in fact it is quite dangerous to see in the acceptance a sort of finality.
This is what David Kessler, Elizabeth’s co-author in later years realised in the death of his own son through a drug overdose. He wrote: “I have come to realise that there is a crucial sixth stage to the healing process, meaning……In this stage we acknowledge that although for most of us grief will lessen in intensity over time, it will never end. Loss can wound or paralyse, it can hang over us for years, but finding meaning in the loss empowers us to find a path forward. But if we allow ourselves to move into this crucial and profound sixth stage – meaning – it will allow us to transform grief into something else, something rich and fulfilling.
To find meaning on Good Friday we have to turn to John’s account of the crucifixion. Here we find these words:-
17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, ‘Do not write “The King of the Jews”, but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.’
22 Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’
23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
24 ‘Let’s not tear it,’ they said to one another. ‘Let’s decide by lot who will get it.’
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
‘They divided my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.’[a]
So this is what the soldiers did.
25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to her, ‘Woman,[b] here is your son,’ 27 and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
The death of Jesus
28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
It is finished, or more accurately, it is accomplished. Here is the meaning behind the loss of Jesus, here is the meaning behind the loss for Jesus of his relationship with his Father. Here is meaning that reverberates down through the ages, even to you and me. It is accomplished. All the sins committed in all the world have been forgiven. Jesus has accomplished what the Father sent him to achieve and in that accomplishment there is meaning for all who love him and put their faith in him. So often we look at things happening around us and we shake our heads at the pointlessness, the meaninglessness of it all, but not on this occasion. There is deep and profound meaning for all who seek it.
We will find meaning in the loss of this past year too. In reading David Kessler’s book I have realised that in a way entering the ministry was my way of finding meaning to the loss I experienced due to paralysis from a very young age. I realised that I could use my experience, to help others going through physical losses of this type, and I have, on a few occasions when people have suffered head trauma and we have been able to chat about my experiences in a way to help them through theirs. Candy Lightner in a similar way founded Mothers against drunk driving after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver as a way of finding meaning, john Walsh started the TV show America’s most wanted after the murder of his son. Now most of us will not found national organisations and find meaning on such a grand scale but we can find meaning in the smallest of moments if we look for it and make a point of creating it. That meaning can be found in the death, in the loss, in the event, in the life of the person you loved or in your own life after the loss. There is no set pattern to you being led to deeper questions and even deeper answers. It can come from creating rituals that commemorate a life or a contribution that honours that person. It may cause you to deepen relationships with those still with you or invite back into your life people from whom you were estranged. It may be just as simple as giving you a heightened sense of the beauty of the life we are all so privileged to have as long as we remain on earth.
Now each of us will find our own meaning from this time of loss. Will it, as I hope, lead to greater collaboration with the community council and St. Mary’s Monastery to find ways to minister to our community? Has it rejuvenated our Elder’s districts as they have proved so important during this time? Has the increased contact we have had with neighbours led to new and deeper relationships? Have the online offerings reached new people and brought them closer to God? We will all find our own meaning, but I would urge you to work your way through your emotions until you find your own meaning to the events of this last year and find peace. God bless you. Amen.