When I chose this month’s selection for the C.S. Lewis book club, I had no way of knowing that I would be observing grief at the same time. My older cousin has been fighting a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer for three months now. Then several circumstances came together last week to indicate that the time to go visit is now.
A road trip across America with my mom and younger cousin ensued. We spent four days and three nights traveling from California to North Carolina, and I brought my little book, A Grief Observed, with me. I read it in the hotel room at night and wrote my last post from the hotel’s business center.
Reading about grief and observing it are two very different things.
There is no apt word to describe cancer. But there is one word that can describe the feelings of those nearby: helpless.
Helpless to alleviate the pain.
Helpless to make it better.
Helpless to know how to help.
C.S Lewis put it this way:
“You can’t really share someone else’s weakness, or fear or pain. What you feel may be bad. It might conceivably be as bad as what the other felt, though I should distrust anyone who claimed that it was. But it would still be quite different.” (25)
When watching a loved one suffer, how many times have relatives and friends wished that they could stand in the gap and take on the physical pain themselves?
Of course, it’s impossible. But One did. Christ took on our suffering and bore our pain in our place. He came. From beside his Father’s throne to a borrowed man’s tomb. And because He did, we can know peace – peace that our earthly suffering is temporal.
I’ve crossed eight states to sit in a living room with my family. I am helpless to take on the pain. I am helpless to make the suffering go away. All I can do is be present and say, “You are not alone. I’m here. I love you.”