I am mourning the loss of two family members in recent weeks. My mother Mary died following a stroke in Tucson, Arizona on May 29th. My brother-in-law Geoffrey died following a massive heart attack in Meridian, Idaho on June 3rd. My husband Glenn and I have been through every emotion since these events and there have been and will continue to be difficult days. There have been moments of pure love and grace during this time. I’ve been trying to identify what practices have helped us experience these moments.
The first is the practice of hospitality. Neighbors brought over a breakfast basket with bagels and fruit and homemade jam. We used this not only for breakfast but for other meals as well. A friend ordered fresh baked cookies for us. They arrived at exactly the right time, and we devoured them. We discovered a gift card to a local restaurant on our front door one day; we still don’t know who left it for us. It means so much that different people thought of us and provided food. The ancient practice of hospitality sustained us and gave us strength.
The second is the practice of listening. Not just any listening, but deep, caring, reflective listening that allowed us to pour out the deepest grief from our hearts. Many, many people have provided this for us, both friends and strangers. We gave some of Geoff’s furniture away to strangers moving into an apartment near his, and these young people were grateful for the furniture as they didn’t bring much from their last place. They listened to us patiently as we shared stories about the furniture and about Geoff; and it was a healing moment.
Many family members and friends have listened to us as the stories about my mother and Glenn’s brother get shared. The practice of storytelling is connected to the practice of listening and these two together have provided many moments of love. We sometimes tell the same story in a new way, to a new person, in a new circumstance, and this adds to our memory bank and process of grieving. The stories about our loved ones are reaching a wider audience and that, in itself, is grace. Hospitality, listening, and storytelling carry great power and great healing.