Words of Comfort and Exhortation to a Grieving Widow
(Editor's Note: The following letter was written to sister Melodye [Deedee] Hall following the death of her husband Mike. Mike served the Danville, Indiana church as an elder for nearly two years before succumbing to leukemia. The letter was written the day after its author attended the visitation at the funeral home. The following letter is reproduced with permission of both its author and recipient.)
21 June 1991
I woke this morning thinking of you and Mike - thinking of our conversations last night. There was so much I wanted to say, but so many were waiting to speak to you, touch you and give you comfort. And when my heart is full my eyes are too and my tongue won't work. So here, at my desk in the quiet morning, I will share my thoughts (such as they are) with you and hope it brings some good to you.
Remember how we talked about the painting "End of the Trail" (the painting is of a lonely Indian sitting on his horse, mw). I believe the symbolism of that picture was appropriate, but the rider in the painting isn't Mike ... it's you! You are the one who has reached the end of this trail - and now, you have a big decision to make because there are two new trails on either side of you. One is dark and lonely and suffocating. But the other is full of light and friends who love you, your family and all the good things of life. It will be hard to take the good trail, but you must and you can do it - by taking small steps. Even though you are grieving you can take a moment to dry your eyes and look up.
Begin by watching stars at night. (Did you know that falling stars are really angels blowing kisses?!)
Determine to catalog every rare and unusual sunset for posterity.
Photograph double rainbows - and rabbits in the morning dew - and barn swallows sweeping the late afternoon air after the neighbor mows his grass.
Record the utterly impossible repertoire of the mocking bird that sits on your light post every morning and take example from him - when he's lonely he sings all night.
Sit at dusk where you can overlook a grassy meadow and count fireflies as they rise to play and help a grandchild now and then to catch a few.
Don't just smell the roses along the way - stop to stroke the velvet petals, taste one on your tongue, hold one up to the light, and give one to a friend - better yet, to a stranger.
There are so many things for you to do, you'd better start soon.
Collect clouds of particular beauty . . . grade them for fluffiness, brilliance and form. Register thunder on the Richter scale and determine lightning amps by the goose bumps on your arms.
Observe flight patterns of monarchs and swallowtails by day and luna moths and millers by night.
Take care to note the odors of rain on a hot day - fog in the morning and sweet grass freshly mown and herbal tea (with cheddar and crackers, thank you very much).
Don't be too embarrassed to talk to dogs, cats or horses - even the squirrels and cardinals that frequent your bird feeders. Some folks think it's crazy to talk to critters, but these poor souls only use half their brains while the other half sits around getting moldy. If Adam could give them honor and go to all the trouble of naming every creature on the earth, surely we can take the time, once in a while, to have a little chat with one or two.
Though you haven't asked for it, I offer this advice. Beware of ticking clocks, drawn curtains, idleness and the urge to wallow. Take all naps on open-air porches or in hammocks - a regular bed in the daytime is a deceptive snare - and avoid daytime T.V. like the plague.
Keep your mind growing . . . learn a new skill or practice an old one that's been gathering dust on the shelf. Take a class at Indiana University, read light-hearted poetry, offer to help with Bible class materials for the nursery students (there are never enough hands to do it all).
And when the swell of sadness rises from time to time, read your favorite Bible passages and pray - and pray and pray some more. Then seek out a brother or sister who needs a little cheering or encouragement and send some comforting Scriptures in a pretty note card. Deliver a home made pie or a pot of be-ribboned marigolds. And don't forget the hugs. Aren't hugs wonderful?! It's such a lovely way to pass along a little of God's blessings - so comforting and pleasant - and one size fits all!
Don't be shocked at yourself when your emotions run in strange channels. Of course you'll miss Mike and ache for him terribly. But there will be days when you will be so angry with him for leaving you - days when you will hold it against him for not being here helping you cope with the trials of everyday living - running the riding mower, figuring income tax, relighting the gas water heater, changing a flat tire. All the "stupid" little things you may not be able to do, because Mike always did them, will become thorns of frustration.
Well, those angry feelings will pass eventually, but you can hurry things along with a special sort of therapy -accomplishment. Determine to learn to do the things you cannot do. Each accomplishment will salve the wound more than you might think.
You know, Deedee, God knew on that fateful day in Eden that men and women would suffer because of death and separation. But see how much he loves us!? He gives to those who go a beautiful home we can only imagine and to those who remain a world of wonder to keep us company until our time to go finally comes.
Don't miss it Deedee. It's the greatest show on earth.
With love, to you, my sister,
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 15, pp. 490-491