Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | July 30, 2011

In Grief, Gratitude

I recently wrote a surviving spouse as one of those things you do. As I did so, I wrote at the joy it had been to see a couple come together from such different lives together… in middle age (late 50’s or early 60’s)… overcoming their loneliness and grief to find new love, and to work at it with sufficient gusto and obvious mutual benefit that it overflowed in such a way that everyone really knew how remarkable this second-marriage for each had become. The best in their polar opposite personalities seemed to balance each other out. And it worked and was an inspiration into their eighties.

Old Blue Eyes once sang about “The Second Time Around”, but this was the real thing. Nothing grand, but something quieter and gentler than Frank would ever consider. This was real, this was “normal” or ordinary love, and in today’s world, it’s what seems to make it special. Funny how the ordinary has become the extraordinary, but perhaps that is the way in our ever-evolving world… and so it brings sentiments forth that share something of the grief that their life together this side of glory has ended with another death. I think it takes courage to step out once again having loved once and lost to early death… for each to overcome the “consolation” of self-absorbed comfort we make for each other in these things to truly reverse course and take up with the effort of living and loving another person, knowing that it will inevitably entail – one day – another unbearable loss and grief.

We share their joys, and now their grief. Each is a privilege. And what made it particularly wonderful was the way the kids on at least one side took in a new father. They were grown and in their thirties, but they took to Mom’s new man like… well… something seldom seen. It was natural, it was authentic, and it is where he now seems most at home. His own sadly took longer to reach a similar place, but in time, they did.

So I finally managed to focus long enough to write both the surviving spouse and his many kids. And what I included among other things was a passage… as I like so many of them it’s hard to choose, but a passage from the Akathist of Thanksgiving:

Glory to Thee, satisfying my desires with good things
Glory to Thee, watching over me day and night
Glory to Thee, curing affliction and emptiness with the healing flow of time
Glory to Thee, no loss is irreparable in Thee, Giver of eternal life to all
Glory to Thee, making immortal all that is lofty and good
Glory to Thee, promising us the longed-for meeting with out loved ones who have died
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.

Afterwards, there’s always the list of things one might have written or said, and of course I stumbled on one of those this past evening from the life of Patriarch Pavle of Serbia of Blessed memory… in his own words:

“When a man is born, the whole world rejoices; only he cries. But people should live their lives in such a way that when they die all the world will cry, but they will rejoice.”

Patriarch Pavle seemed to have a gentleness and sense of humor… and genuine humility about him that is not altogether unlike that of the surviving father in this case… by which I do not mean to imply the father was Orthodox, for he wasn’t, or that he approached the late Patriarch’s virtues or would have even understood these as holy virtues and part of his character, but there seems to be a touch there if no more. And I think the Patriarch caught another good turn of phrase there worth repeating when we think on these things. And so it is, Glory to Thee, O God.


  1. Beautifully said. I hope I have friends like you write to me or my wife when we come to that place.

  2. These words echo in my heart. I second s-p’s words.

    God bless you.

    • Thanks folks. Not looking to become the speaker no one wants to see…’cause he only does funerals.
      I would gladly do the honors… only I’d rather visit for a birthday, visit with your grand kids, even cut the grass or wash the car (you probably don’t want me cooking unless it’s breakfast or a barbecue) … anything but a funeral.

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