View from the Vicarage
I Don’t Know How You Feel
One of my pet peeves is when people say, “I know how you feel.” Do you recognize that?
The moments when you have been the victim of some tragedy, perhaps a bereavement, and people around you, seeking no doubt to be helpful and supportive, tell you that they know how you feel? I think that next on the list of unhelpful comments made around bereaved people is probably, “It will get better.” Again, almost always said out of love, and I am quite sure that I have been guilty of saying that to people myself, but almost certainly unhelpful and in at least one sense, untrue. Bereavement doesn’t get better. It gets different. Each one of us carries a particular set of memories, thanksgivings, regrets and hurts. So the first thing I want to say to you is that I don’t know how you feel. I know how I feel, but you don’t, and you know how you feel, and I don’t.
That is not to say that we are alone. The whole point of community, community of any sort but perhaps the church in particular, is that we do this thing together. We gather together for All Saints, All Souls and Remembrance Services at this time of the year. We gather because there are common threads in bereavement. So, I know a little bit about how you might be feeling. Because I know about the emptiness. I know the regrets. I know about the pain. But I don’t know how you feel. That is why we gather in our Church and in our Community for an act of Christian Worship. We gather with particular people, particular names in our minds and on our hearts. But such Services are not just for the people that we can remember either. The stones of our Churches have been hallowed by prayers, tears and laughter uttered by countless thousands of people who we will never know, but they are part of the story, they are part of God’s family and we symbolically remember them, knowing that God actually does.
Why is it important to remember? Because people matter. It is in these moments of remembrance that we discover the key to beginning to muddle our way through how it feels to be mortal, fragile, alone, broken. That key, of course, is Christ. I don’t know how you feel, but Christ does and what is offered to us is the promise that we are never alone. Those fears and dreads that we experience in the silent watches of the night are real and have to be faced, but we do not face them alone, ever. We are surrounded by the irresistible and glorious vanguard of Christ.
Our moments of remembrance, whether together or alone, is full of angels, full of holiness, full of forgiveness, and love, and grace, and hope. Such times are difficult, but it is right to have a place to cry, to be still with our feelings of loss, whether they are terribly raw or have been changed, made different, by time and grace. But such moments are also pregnant with hope. That hole that is left in your heart by the loss of the person or people that you mourn, that hole is never filled, that person is not replaced, but although we cannot see it yet, it begins to shine with glory, because Christ is risen and everything will be made new.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!