I Hit Like Vesuvius some supports in grief copyright Doug Blair, 2017, Waterloo, ON
I hit like Vesuvius. Greater emotional impact Than one's first love. Irrepressible as incoming tide. Washing over sand castles. I elicit self-doubt, Self-pity, Self-centredness. I bring on red anger, Social awkwardness, Loner spirit. I humiliate With damp blubber. Pluck the mournful strings, Belly-high. Drag up guilt for things
Not said; not done; Not forgiven. I pilfer memories. And energy. I cause friends To keep distant, To stammer, To grow impatient. I haunt with faces, Gestures, music, Abandoned wardrobe. I roar At the phrase "Snap out of it." Cause men to doubt Their manhood. Cause women to remember Apron strings, rockers And first school-days. I befuddle and Bring on mistakes, Inefficiencies. I slander God And His kind. (For a time.) I tax prayer Beyond itself. But I also clean The inner residues; Flush out the vitriol; Relieve the inexplicable; Distill humble servant-spirit; Develop new-found audacities, Currencies, compassions. Evoke the dark night, That joy might Come in the morning. I am Grief.
Today it’s really over Today is all we’ve got At last, kicking out Worry And all the grief he brought. The sleepless nights a-tossing The plans turned up and down The horrors never happening The seeds of failure sown. I should have done it long back But I was duped to fret By cautious words of warning I now plan to forget: “Tomorrow holds such peril You really need to plan Disaster at the doorstep It’s up to you, my man. And losses need insurance And markets rise and fall The body’s getting older Who knows what plague may call.” The Worry points me inward Have I got what it takes? Henceforth a looking upward Where faith, a freedom makes. The Lord knows how I’m living He sees my every need And Lord knows, He’s forgiving I’m fed, I’m fit, I’m freed.
Today is full of sunshine And in my heart it glows His smile now all my promise. How quickly Worry goes.
(a good time to refer to Psalm 37)
Folks are troubled By my presence Never welcome No, not I The assignment Souls to harvest
And to transport Up on High I will gather At the last breath Leaving pain And wounds behind Almost weightless As I bear them Oh the suffering That I find! But to some The change is easy They have seen Of what comes next And they almost Hear my coming Neither panicking Nor vexed And they know Their earthen treasure
Now is headed For the Blue And with them My grim deliveries So much easier to do. But they prove The bright exception Others writhe and wail In pain Never guessing I was blameless When the bombs Began to rain. When the jealousy And avarice Used the whip And whistle-blow. It is men themselves Destroying But they never
Seem to know. Note: This poem was inspired by the arresting book entitled The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005). Death is the narrator and wartorn Nazi Germany is the environment and the point of view is a preteen girl coming to know the power, threat and comfort of words on a page.
Comfort in Grief
(Taken from the Letters of Samuel Rutherford)To LADY KENMURE, on the occasion of the death of her infant daughter
MADAM, — Saluting your Ladyship with grace and mercy from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. I was sorry, at my departure, leaving your Ladyship in grief, and would be still grieved at it if I were not assured that ye have one with you in the furnace whose visage is like unto the Son of God. I am glad that ye have been acquainted from your youth with the wrestlings of God, knowing that if ye were not dear to God, and if your health did not require so much of Him, He would not spend so much physic upon you. All the brethren and sisters of Christ must be conform to His image and copy in suffering (Rom. 8.29). And some do more vividly resemble the copy than others. Think, Madam, that it is a part of your glory to be enrolled among those whom one of the elders pointed out to John, ‘These are they which came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ Ye have lost a child: nay she is not lost to you who is found to Christ. She is not sent away, but only sent before, like unto a star, which going out of our sight doth not die and vanish, but shineth
in another hemisphere. We see her not, yet she doth shine in another country. If her glass was but a short hour, what she wanteth of time that she hath gotten of eternity; and ye have to rejoice that ye have now some plenishing up in heaven. Build your nest upon no tree here; for ye see God hath sold the forest to death; and every tree whereupon we would rest is ready to be cut down, to the end we may fly and mount up, and build upon the Rock, and dwell in the holes of the Rock. What ye love besides Jesus, your husband, is an adulterous lover. Now it is God’s special blessing to Judah, that He will not let her find her paths in following her strange lovers. ‘Therefore, behold I will hedge up thy way with thorns and make a wall that she shall not find her paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them’ (Hos. 2.6-7). O thrice happy Judah, when God buildeth a double stone wall betwixt her and the fire of hell! The world, and the things of the world, Madam, is the lover ye naturally affect beside your own husband Christ. The hedge of thorns and the wall which God buildeth in your way, to hinder you from this lover, is the thorny hedge of daily grief, loss of children, weakness of body, iniquity of the time, uncertainty of estate, lack of worldly comfort, fear of God’s anger for old unrepented-of sins. What lose ye, if God twist and plait the hedge daily thicker? God be blessed, the Lord will not let you find your paths. Return to your first husband. Do not weary, neither think that death walketh towards you with a slow pace. Ye must be riper ere ye be shaken. Your days are no longer than Job’s, that were ‘swifter than a post, and passed away as the ships of desire, and as the eagle that hasteth for the prey’ (9, 25, 26, margin). There is less sand in your glass now than there was yesternight. This span-length of ever-posting time will soon be ended. But the greater is the mercy of God, the more years ye get to advise, upon what terms, and upon what conditions, ye cast your soul in the huge gulf of never-ending eternity. The Lord hath told you what ye should be doing till He come; ‘wait and hasten (saith Peter,) for the coming of the Lord’; all is night that is here, in respect of ignorance and daily ensuing troubles,
one always making way to another, as the ninth wave of the sea to the tenth; therefore sigh and long for the dawning of that morning, and the breaking of that day of the coming of the Son of man, when the shadows shall flee away. Persuade yourself the King is coming; read His letter sent before Him, ‘Behold, I come quickly.’ Wait with the wearied night-watch for the breaking of the eastern sky, and think that you have not a morrow. I am loath to weary you; show yourself a Christian, by suffering without murmuring; — in patience possess your soul: they lose nothing who gain Christ. I commend you to the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus. ANWOTH, Jan, 15, 1629
Chaplaincy to Whomsoever
Visit them. Share in the predicament. Exhort. Pray. Look them square in the face. Name their name. Smile. Wish them God's blessing. Promise to come back.
I am reminded of an excellent book by Henri Nouwen. It was entitled The Wounded Healer. In it he wrote of a young candidate for the priesthood who had taken to visiting regularly one chronically ill patient in hospital. The day came when it became clear that a very serious surgery was necessary, one with small percentages of success. The student, very shy and very vulnerable in his service, struggled with what to say, how to encourage in the ordeal.
Finally at the tail end of his visit and with the procedure just hours away, he blurted out, "Harry I can give no guarantees. I have no surefire solution to offer. I only know that we have prayed; that God is good all the time; that I will see you after this is over. Keep looking up."
And according to Nouwen that was all that needed to be said; should be said about the providences of God. It had to come from one who was not self-assured, not smug about the conditions of this fallen place, but triumphantly gambling on God. A wounded healer.
This is one of our fundamental needs in society; that a caring one will always be there waiting, anticipating the
gladsome reunion. It applies to tomorrow morning, the end of the school term, the work assignment abroad, the wandering into sin, the sojourn in jail or in hospital, the entrance into Glory. Love watches and waits and welcomes.
And Still He Sang
(Found in Come Ye Apart by J. R. Miller)
Songs in the Night “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.” Matthew 26:30 This is the only record of our Lord’s singing when He was on the earth. It is worthy of special notice that it was just as He was starting out to Gethsemane that He sung a hymn with His disciples. It would not have seemed so strange to us if He had sung that night on the Transfiguration Mount, or the day He entered Jerusalem amid the people’s hosannas, or on some other occasion of great gladness and triumph; but that the only time we hear Him singing should be in the darkest night of His earthly life is very suggestive. It tells us of the deep gladness that was in the heart of Christ under all His griefs and sorrows. He knew the agony into whose black shadows He was about to enter. He saw the cross, too, that stood just beyond Gethsemane. Yet He went out toward the darkness with songs of praise on His lips. There is a Scripture word which tells us that “for the joy set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame.” This was the joy that broke forth here in a hymn of praise. It was the joy of doing the Father’s will and of saving lost souls. Thus, we get here another glimpse of Christ’s great heart of love.
We learn a lesson, too, for ourselves. We should go forward with joy to meet sorrow and sacrifice when we are doing our Father’s will. We should learn to sing as we enter life’s valleys of shadow. It is a great thing to be able to sing as we work, and sing as we suffer. The secret of Christ’s song here was His looking beyond the garden and the cross; He saw the reward, the glory, the redemption accomplished. If we look only at the sorrow before us, we cannot sing; but if we look on to the joy of victory, and the blessedness of the reward, and the ripened fruits that will come from the suffering, we can sing too as we enter the sorest trial.
some supports in grief