Companions for the Journey
Recently, when I retrieved my daily mail out of its box, I was delighted to see a letter from a dear friend. She was first a friend of my brother Paul who passed away in 1969, and though it has been fifty-three years since he died, she has never forgotten him or us. Receiving her letter reminded me how important it is to have companions for the grief journey, how their presence, memories and acts of kindness heal us in a way nothing else can.
Her note lovingly said: “I am doing what many people my age do, and that is to sort through many of my treasures and pass them along to those I care about. Tucked in a book were these two memories from Paul. The poem written on the Vietnam paper is so meaningful and in his own handwriting! Wonder what he would think today to know how much we treasure them!?”
In the envelope were poem-verse-reflections he had sent to her, depicting his reality as a Marine in Vietnam. One dated about eight months before his death, was a short verse typed on a piece of a magazine cut out. The other, written on military stationery with a map of Cambodia and Hanoi etched in the background was a poem describing a beautiful moment in time, amidst a place of hell. True treasures.
This friend of my brother is a faithful companion on our family’s grief journey, and she has never failed to do the kind, compassionate thing to help us heal, most especially– remembering him. My brother always bought my mother a flower for Christmas, and his beautiful forever friend, kept up the tradition of sending my mother flowers for Christmas over these many years.
The grieving heart wants to know their loved one is still cherished and remembered by others. It makes such a difference when someone says their name, recalls a birthday, or shares a story bringing them into our presence. To have another person share any part of them with us, reminds us that they lived and were loved. This is why so many people relish the stories shared at a funeral. For me, the letter and treasures sent by my brother’s dear friend remind me of the depth of his relationships with others, and it comforts me to know he had such a beautiful person in his life who cared so deeply for him.
We will deeply grieve those we most love who have passed on, but hopefully we will never be alone in our loss. Receiving this letter reminded me of the importance of reaching out to those I know who are walking the tough path of loss. May you and I not be afraid to companion those who grieve, may we be like my brother’s dearest friend – generous and faithful.
I will be speaking on loss, the emotions of grief and the healing role of companions on the grief journey, March 25th at the Mile’s Sharing Hope Bereavement Seminar. Each person in attendance will receive a copy of Alan Wolfelt’s book, The Handbook for Companioning the Mourner: Eleven Essential Principles. This book includes an explanation of true empathy, exploring the ways companionship eases grief.
Register for the March 25th Seminar By Clicking on the Sharing hope Logo