A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Grief and Hope: Working for a Better World

by Sheri

It has been nearly 13 years since my first husband died.  I was all set to share with you a letter I wrote to him the other day.  I am totally chickening out.  It was just too personal.  
Yet I still want to share some of the thoughts because I think there is a message there that is important, maybe even crucial to our world.  

When Matt died my grief was full of longing for all the wonderful things he could have done in this world.  He was full of passion and a sense of duty and would have done a lot of good.  Part of my focus then was trying to make some of that good happen even without him.  Recently I have realized I need to change that focus.

Matt died from an accident at work.  The story is complicated and personal.  But there were things that could have been done differently and perhaps changed the outcome.  So, to  me part of what took Matt's life was just the way the world works.  Business is business and sometimes the consequences are high.

So, now I want to focus on changing the way the world works. I want to work to make the world a place that is not ruled by "business is business",  self-interest, and self-protection. 

Really the results are not much different.  Some of the good Matt would have done accomplishes the same thing.    But the difference to me is huge.  It is the difference between clinging to a future which can never be and stretching for a future that is a sure and certain hope.  

Many die from the "the way the world works".  Some die from hunger and poverty, as those who have much take even more until there is not enough to go around.  Some die from disease caused by pollutants that we put into our environment in our search for ever more stuff.  Some die from wars and violence, as those who have much fearfully protect it and those who do not lash out in anger.  Recently I have come to realize that many die from diseases, accidents, and even natural disasters that could possibly have been prevented or cured or protected against if so many resources and brilliant minds were not being directed towards war machines and the selling of more stuff.

Grief is such a helpless feeling.  There is nothing to do to bring a loved one back.  Matt is gone.  No cliche will change that.  But those of us burdened with grief, (and, Lord, we are many), do not have to be burdened also with helplessness.  We can rise up and change the world.  We can live our lives working for change, moving toward a day when the only grief that is prevalent in this world will be saying goodbye to one who has lived a long and fruitful life.  I can just hear you all saying, "Like that could ever happen."  It is funny to be writing this in connection with Matt.  He would have probably said that too.  

But, it is imperative that we are hopeful.  If we give in to despair we look at the world and say, "Forget it, this is as good as it gets."  I will not accept that.  We can do better.  I will hope.  As hard as I grieved for Matt, I will hope that much harder.  With hope, change will happen.

I know I cannot single handedly change the world.  I am not planning some huge self-sacrificing gesture in that interest.  But, when I make decisions in my life I will try to choose what changes the focus away from "business is business".  The wonderful thing is, in honoring Matt in this way I also make a better, safer future for the family I have now.  And I have a great help mate in doing that with a husband who is committed to teaching young people.  

Clearly I will need help beyond my wonderful husband.  Human beings cannot change the world on their own.  But, I will let that "sure and certain hope" work on you as is appropriate for your life.  Matt had a faith that tended toward irreverence and skepticism, especially regarding the institutional church.  He knew that saying "Jesus... Jesus... Jesus" didn't necessarily mean you were talking about Jesus at all.  So, it seems appropriate that I leave it at that.  


Lynn Schlosser said...

Yes! Yes! Thank you so much for sharing and being vulnerable. I too am energized of late thinking about authentic hope and the power therein. This isn't pie in the sky hope, or hope that denies grief and suffering, but hope that is rooted in the harsh and beautiful realities of this life - this hope can indeed change our world....

Laurie Hesed said...

Thanks, Sheri...it's always difficult to comprehend good coming from suffering. I too, appreciate your vulnerability and what you're able to give to the rest of us because you have lost deeply and yet not lost hope. It's tough to see the light sometimes, but that doesn't mean the light isn't there.

Sheri Ellwood said...

Thanks Lynn and Laurie. It is indeed difficult to see the light sometimes. Yet we believe that not only is the light there but that God can work through us to fan the flame and diminish the darkness.

Charlene said...

It's interesting to think about, but I probably wouldn't be here with my little farm trying to change a corner of the world if it wasn't for Matt. He recommended Tom Brown's books to me, and, well, it's been an interesting journey from there. And I too keep wishing I could see all the things he would have done by now.

Sheri Ellwood said...

So good to hear your thoughts, Charlene. Matt definitely had an impact on many. It is interesting to think what he would have done were he still here.