To Those Who Want to Comfort,
December 1, 2000 was a Friday. I probably went to school. I remember that night very well. My family and I had plans to go to this well known seafood place in Jena, Louisiana called Ginny’s. My parents, my sister (and I’m sure some of her friends as she always had friends over on the weekends), my aunt and at least 2 (maybe 3 of her sons) and myself got in our respective vehicles to go to this restaurant we had heard a lot about. For some reason or another, my brother (Neal) couldn’t make it this night. I remember my parents being a little disappointed that he wasn’t coming, but that could be a false memory. I was in 7th grade.
My family shared a meal. I remember our server. She was a blonde and my aunt’s next to eldest son (Chawn) made a few inappropriate jokes toward her, if I am remembering well. I don’t remember the ride home (I probably slept).
The next thing I remember about this weekend was Saturday morning. Everything was quiet and my parents called me into their bedroom. I thought I was in trouble for something I had done, as this was an often occurrence.
My dad broke the news to me and I cried a good bit. My brother had passed that morning in a car accident.
I was heart broken. My brother was invincible, as far as I knew. This couldn’t be real. IT COULDN’T BE.
But it was.
In the days to come, our house was full of support from our church family. We buried my brother on a Monday, December the 4th at around noon. I was still in disbelief and remember making jokes to a guy named Jason (a suitor/suitee of my sisters) to mask my grief.
We got home from the funeral. Our house was full of food brought by our church family. I tried to help do the dishes but one Ms. Jimmie Himminger refused to let me help and washed my families’ dishes. I hope she’s still alive. That woman is/was a saint.
That afternoon, our neighbor, also a sheriff deputy, brought something to our door. My parents opened the door, but the deputy was there for me. My classmates from Oak Hill had each written me a letter. I still have those letters today and read them from time to time. They announced their sorrow. They wished it hadn’t happened. Some of them had also lost brothers and sisters and shared my grief in ways others couldn’t.
I read those letters through ravenously, in one sitting. They comforted me. And they still do.
I am bitterly reminded of that horrible week my family had in early December of the year 2000 this week as so many families have lost loved ones, the majority of them 6 and 7 year olds. I don’t dare compare my experience with losing a family member at such a young age but this week has ripped open old scars that probably never healed properly.
So, here is my petition to those of you whose tables will be full this year, without any empty seats, LOVE EACH OTHER. Tell them you love them and if you feel the need to share some love with those families who have lost loved ones, find someone close to you who has lost a loved one and listen to their story. Cry with them. Break bread with them. We can’t all go to Connecticut and love on those families, but I assure you there are families closer to home who are grieving.
When you find someone grieving, don’t rush to remind them of the Resurrection that is promised. Saturday is a day of mourning and sometimes those Saturdays last a long time. For me, twelve years later, my Saturday still rages on. I still miss my brother. And that’s okay.
Grief is a natural process and please don’t try and rush folks through that process.
Pastor Terry Ramone Smith