9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:9-12 NRSV)It's hard to believe it's been almost two weeks since I lost a man I've called Dad for the past 21 years - my father-in-law. In these two weeks, I've found myself withdrawing from people. I've skipped church. I've kept sympathy calls to a minimum. I've avoided visiting friends. I've had a hard time seeing and appreciating support from others. Other than trying to be there for my own immediate family and Mom, I've remained trapped in my own grief.
A lesson in love (from a child... and it's only taken me 12 days to figure it out...)
The day after Dad's passing, a young boy - an 11 years old friend of my youngest son - came to my door. He said he needed to see my son, and then hugged me tight and simply said "I'm really sorry about Grandpa" to me. As soon as I retrieved my son, this young boy hugged him tight and repeated the sentiment, and told him if he needs anything, to call him.
The next day, this young boy called. The day after that, he stopped over again, offering hugs. This continued through the week. One day, a week after Dad's passing, he called to ask if he could come over to hang out. I said yes, and just as I was about to hang up, he said "I'm really sorry, Brandi." His shaking voice brought tears to my eyes. I found out later that he had been doing the same thing for my mother-in-law. He'd jump on his bike, and go the few blocks to her place and mine, making sure we were all okay.
The one thing I noticed immediately was that there was a heartbreaking sorrow and sincerity in this young boy's eyes. Dad wasn't biologically this boy's grandfather; but in the boy's heart - the one place that matters - he was, without a doubt, Grandpa. And even in this boy's own suffering and grief, he found the strength and courage to reach out to others he knew were also hurting. He pushed aside his own grief - or perhaps reacted from that grief - to be a little pillar of great strength to children and adults.
I wish more loved like that (including myself)I truly don't mean to insult anyone. I have had people supporting me. I've had them leave messages on Facebook, or text me, and one even called me to offer comforting words. I've had some reach out with hugs when we run into each other. I've gotten cards.
But there was something about this child that pulled at my heartstrings. Complete selflessness, a desire to comfort another, a need to help however he could, and a follow-through on that desire and need - how many of us truly are like that? How many of us drop everything, especially in the midst of our own problems, to genuinely love and care for another?
I know I don't. I'm selfish. I get wrapped up in my own family issues and grief and busyness. My "love others" tends to end at the door when I'm busy or depressed or overwhelmed with my own problems.
This isn't Christlike behavior. Christlike behavior would be to do as this young boy did. When Jesus was about to die, He did not think of Himself. He thought of others. He made sure His mother would be cared for. He assured the thief he'd be with Him in Paradise. He prayed for the forgiveness of those about to kill Him. At no time (that I know of, anyway) did Christ turn others away, or ignore the needs of others. At no time did He withhold love and comfort, even if He were grieving.
How to love genuinely?
Call a friend. Visit a friend. Bake a cake for a friend (brownies preferably... chocolate helps everything...). Remind a friend of your love, and especially of God's love. Pray. Serve. Pull away from your own sorrow and problems to help those who are also suffering. Don't do any of this because "it's the right thing" but do so out of true caring and love within your heart.
During the funeral it was discussed how we should all be thankful during this time of grieving... that being thankful helps us win over depression - the two cannot survive at the same time. I'm not sure I fully agree with that, but I can agree that when you concentrate on the wonderful gifts you've been given, it is easier to move forward, and help others also get through their grief.
And besides being eternally grateful for the time God granted me with Dad, I am also thankful for God sending this angel wrapped in a little boy's body to help remind me what genuine love is.