I was walking this morning. In the rain, the cold October rain with the wind blustering around me. I was cursing myself for not dressing for the weather when I spied a large blonde dog staring at me a block away. My first thought was of raised hackles and growls and began casting about for a detour when I noticed that she was being led by a stately older woman who was also staring. They both stood there as I approached, never taking their eyes off of me. As I neared, the woman called out "I'm sorry but this dog thinks you are my husband - he died two weeks ago and she's been looking for him everywhere, you look a lot like him". I bent down to pet the dog. When she smelled me the expression in her eyes changed from expectation to confusion, even sadness. I stood up and saw the same expression in the woman's eyes, disappointment really. "I am so sorry for your loss", "Thank you".
Yesterday I uncharacteristically went out the front door of our office, by our receptionist Nancy. Nancy is my age and is a feisty, enthusiastic, opinionated woman, which makes her good at her her job. I called out as I am wont to do "how's tricks?" she shouted back "great" and then as I was turning to leave she said in a low voice, almost a whisper: "my aunt's dying". Throughh red rimmed eyes that fought to hold back tears she told of how her Aunt 'taught her to be a lady' and looked out for her when her mother couldn't. I grasped her hand and held it over the counter while she explained how her aunt was the last living link to her long dead father and about the brain hemorrhage that was carrying her away and of her fears that she would linger as her father had. "I'm so sorry for your loss", "Thank you". "Can I pray for you?" "Yes".
It seems that when I see pain and loss in others eyes I experience more than simply recognition of their emotion, I feel it as a real substance that passes from their hearts through their eyes and from there into my heart where it illuminates the same loss in me. Only in my case it was not disease or death that left the mark but selfishness and pride. But the sense of loss remains the same, the pain and longing for a different path, a different outcome is still there. This thing that we all feel - that all Creation feels, even the dog felt it. This longing, this sense of brokenness, of loss. It is real and is deeper than any financial reverse or job loss or even death. It is in our souls and we long to fill it.
We can't fill that hole, though sometimes we try. God does that. All we can do when a friend has suffered a loss is love them, walk with them and recognize their pain in our experience. But make sure you stick by their side as they they pass through their valley of despair. Never leave them alone until they are safely on the other side. Out of the darkness: where life and beauty persist.