For the Not Yet Dead

We who live insulated lives cannot begin to comprehend the depth of emptiness which arises when one we love is lost. I shudder to think how devastating such would be to me. Some of you already know.

For reasons I need not go into now, a friend recently re-introduced me to John Whitehead, a feisty, bull dog kind of guy, a guy you always want on your side in a battle.

But even bull dogs suffer. Whitehead writes,

Recently, my wife of 42 years, Carol, suddenly passed away. Nothing can convey the feeling of lostness that has come over me. I feel like a gutted fish. My sense of being has been amputated. All sounds, even human voices, seem shrill and overbearing. Strange headaches and twilight sleeping. I have trouble swallowing. A vacuum has descended and all the color has drained from the world and it has not yet returned. Maybe it won’t.

I’m grateful for Whitehead’s honest reflections on loss, shared fully here. Nothing prepares us for this.

But perhaps we can be prepared for being there for those who are facing loss. Our temptation would be to talk someone like Whitehead out of his grief. To throw Bible verses at him, in a way meant to comfort, but which only sting.

Joe Bailey lost three sons in tragic accidents, very close together. In his helpful little book The View from a Hearse, sadly out of print, he makes this poignant reflection:

“I was sitting, torn by grief. Somewon came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly, he said things I knew were true.

“I was unmoved, except to wish he’d go away. He finally did.

“Another cam and sat beside me. He didn’t talk. He didn’t ask leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour and more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left.

“I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.”

One thought on “For the Not Yet Dead

  1. The Domestic Intellectual

    Thanks for sharing this. I was encouraged by the article from Whitehead. It is hard to admit when you feel grief is near your heart, especially when you are not facing the type of wrenching loss that he describes, but it is a reality nonetheless.

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