Motivating people to practice intentional acts of kindness

An Ideal Grief Gathering

Allow me to share a story that illustrates my concept of “grief-work.” It happened some time ago. The phone call arrived with the sad news that Bob had suddenly died. He had been weak, but had still been taking his daily walks. Then a fall seemed to break things loose in his body, leading to his rather peaceful death. He was 82 years old.

A prompt call to Martha, Bob's wife, offered her our shock and sympathy. She was tearfully gracious and quickly informed me they wanted me to officiate at the service. As a long time pastor/friend, I wanted to be part of the event. I was honored to be asked.

The first step I wanted to take was to meet with the family. In this case, it included his wife, an adult son and daughter, their spouses, and four grandchildren, all old enough to be impacted by their grandfather's death. I asked Martha if Linda and I could come to their house on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and stay a couple of hours to talk with them, as needed. The suggestion was accepted and then embellished with an invitation to stay on for the evening meal.

What happened that evening shaped up as the best imaginable Pastoral event. Since it was in Bob's home, the family was very comfortable. We were on their turf, a key advantage for what I hoped would happen. And everyone was present, including Bob's large canine companion.

The natural opening was to begin with the details of where, when and what the service would include, but I had an unspoken agenda—talking about Bob. This is what the loved ones needed to do. My opening gambit was to inquire of Martha about how she and Bob had originally met. Soon we were enjoying, with tears and laughter, the fascinating story of their first date. That started the ball rolling. Stories continued for the next two or three hours, enhanced by the pleasant interruption of guacamole dip, salsa and chips, and eventually a buffet style meal catered in.

Intervening naturally and appropriately, now and then, was the fine-tuning of the Memorial Service itself. But the main thing was the sharing that kept trickling out from Martha, Bob's son, and daughter, and the three healthy teenaged granddaughters.

Finally, we stood, held hands, and I offered a prayer of Thanksgiving for Bob's life and intercession for the family, who would need to plan a new life without him. Then with warm hugs and much appreciation of each other, we parted, tired, but pleased and energized.

This was "grief-work" at its best. Story-telling, remembering, reminiscing, appreciating, laughing and crying, all mixed together around food and drink in a comfortable living room are what people need at a time like this.


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Dr. James Kok

Dr. James Kok is the founder of the Care and Kindness Campaign