I am about to attend the second of two memorial services this week –people of strong faith who I’m sure are with God and who are no longer in pain. While knowing that they have moved from life into life, it is still difficult to bear their loss. Our beloved former president of Columbia Theological Seminary, Steve Hayner, will soon be lifted up in communal remembrance. He and his wife, Sharol Hayner have let us walk with them in this journey through pancreatic cancer by means of the CaringBridge website. In tribute to their incredible witness of faith, I lift up here a portion of one of Sharol’s posts from October 8, 2014 on discipleship during difficult times:
What has struck us is the suddenness with which life radically changed five months ago. On Good Friday, Steve was in the office and by Tuesday, we were at Emory Hospital where an ultrasound and a CT Scan revealed the presence of a mass on Steve’s pancreas. Since that day, Steve has not been able to work more than an hour or two at a time. He’s not been to church nor boarded an airplane. He’s not been to the gym, something he did many times a week, nor has he been able to read an entire book.
Life is like that. Things happen which we do not expect or want. Friends often confess to me that they could never live as we are, embracing our changing circumstances, choosing to trust God with the outcome. “Our faith is not as strong as yours,” they say. I’ve thought the same thing when observing the suffering of a friend or family member.
What Steve and I both realize is that we have been preparing all our lives for this season. Our attempts to follow Jesus every day, every normal, mundane day, have prepared us for these tumultuous days. This is what discipleship is all about. Knowing that one of God’s goals is to transform us to look more and more like Jesus, we have cultivated disciplines of prayer and Bible study while building community, pursuing justice and serving others. But more important, day by day, the Spirit has been at work in us, chiseling away like a master sculptor. Chipping away what does not belong. Releasing the wonder of God’s creation. Giving us confidence that our lives are safe in God’s hands no matter what. We’ve been prepared to walk with confidence and hope—one step, one day at a time.
Journaling for adults in the grieving process can often bring release and comfort as words express thoughts and feelings that are difficult to say aloud. For children grieving is more complex. It occurs in short bursts. There may be many questions and spoken or written language may not be the primary way they are able to express thoughts and feelings. I offer a packet of resources here that I have used in many workshops on children and grief. I hope it is useful to you when it is the time to mourn instead of dance.
Kathy Dawson, Associate Professor of Christian Education, Columbia Theological Seminary