Weep With Those Who Weep

Weeping With those Who Weep

Mourning with those who are sad is not one of our favorite things to do. We get impatient with the spouse still mourning the loss of her husband five years after his death. We want to say, “Get over it. It’s been five years. It’s time to get on with your life.” A little self-reflection would tell us that it is arrogant of us to think we can place limits on another’s grief.

Just yesterday, I passed by the graveyard of my late wife, Kathleen. Seemingly, out of the blue, I felt this overwhelming sense of loss. Kathleen was in the car with me. I saw her face; felt her presence. I have lone since passed the stage when I grieve for her daily but just when I least expect it, my heart still skips a beat. Tears come into my eyes and I find myself mourning the loss of my wife. Someone might say, Hank, It was two and a half years ago. I say, So what? When we mourn, we mourn. Does our sense of loss disappear after the funeral ceremony? In one year? Five years? What nonsense to act as though there is some artificial period of mourning that is “appropriate.”

I flashed on the mourning that is part of the life of our kids at the Children’s Village. Do they have less right to mourn the loss of their parents, the break-up of their family just because it all happened a few years back? Who appointed us as the timekeepers for a child’s grief?

And if their sorrow is expressed in their sometimes-aggressive behavior rather than by tears, may we at least try to walk in their shoes before we condemn and punish them. These are children who have had to endure painful rejection on the part of those who were supposed to take care of them. Of course they are sad. They need time and compassion to heal those wounds. We owe them that.

My own daughter lost a close friend recently who was part of her life, part of her history. Just because the young man who died was not a parent or family member, is it not okay for her to be deeply saddened by her loss? Do we say, “get over it” as though it were that simple?

One of the cruelest things we can say to people in mourning is the glib phrase “Time heals all wounds.” Does it really? Those of us who have experienced the loss of a loved one may disagree. Recovering from a deep loss cannot be neatly calculated into hours or week or years. Yes, healing takes time but it takes more than that. We are all individuals and we grieve at our own pace. It behooves all of us to be sensitive to the healing time line of others. We don’t really need to feel that we have to “cheer up” those who mourn. We will do much better to weep with those who weep, to take their hands in ours and say, “I’m really sorry.”

A Year in the life of a Children's Village Grandpa

This was a year like no other for this old guy. Living here at the Children's Village full time changed me. I was on a honeymoon of sorts my first few months here. Being a visionary at heart, I think I was dreaming about this idyllic community of kids and old folks living together in harmony. Experiencing all that love from the parents and grandparents, the kids would all be transformed and we would live happily ever after.

I knew somewhere in the deeper recesses of my mind that life is not like that. I haven’t lived 73 summers without realizing that kids don’t turn their lives around simply because they get a little one-on-one and a hug from a parent or grandparent. They are all individuals, complicated, struggling, imperfect human beings with their own journey to undertake. I want us to make a difference in their lives, I suppose as much for my own reasons as theirs but whatever changes we bring about will not come quickly.

We have accomplished something. I would say that most of the eighteen kids here now genuinely like the village, the camaraderie, the fact that their siblings are still with them. Oh, maybe it’s not as good as the home they wanted so badly but we have managed, for the most part, to afford them some safety and security and a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.

Kids know at some level that we are trying to help them. Like most families, it will not dawn on them until some years have gone by, how hard we did try and continue to try to give them a better life. It has been ever thus. It takes a while in the best of circumstances for kids to feel gratitude. We parents and grandparents all get back SOME warm fuzzies from SOME of the kids, SOME of the time. But if we expect to be smothered with smooches and expressions of undying gratitude, we are in the wrong business. Still and all, I’m glad I’m here and grateful to whatever God may be that I find myself with a new name and a new identity. For better or worse, I am Grandpa Hank and consider myself one lucky old dude to be spending my twilight years doing something I believe in.

I am in the process of writing a book about my life in the Children's Village. I hope to have it published by this time in 2009, I will try to be as as unblinkingly honest in writing this story as the kids I live with daily. They are beautiful human beings.

Happy New Year to all.