Be kind to one another. (Eph. 4:32)
Paul’s admonition to be kind has been very real to me as I have been coping with my daughter’s death this summer. Kindness may be the most important thing we need and the most important thing we can give. Kindness costs so little; it gives so much.
I am thinking about the woman at the newspaper who was instructing me on how to submit an obituary. After her third attempt to walk me through the four steps, I said, “I’m sorry. I’m just not getting it.” She said, “There is nothing to be sorry about. I understand. Is there someone in the house who I can talk to?”
I am thinking about the therapist who said, “Jim, there is no pain like losing a child, and there is no parent who has lost a child who doesn’t blame themselves. Lucy and others will need to tell you 5,000 times that Anna’s death was not your fault. I know you loved her. I know you did and would have done anything for her.”
I am thinking about the several people who had lost children themselves, who reached beyond their own pain to touch mine.
I am thinking about Lucy, who blessed me with kindness in more ways than I can count and in more ways than I even know.
I am also thinking about the several people who were trying to be kind but whose words weren’t particularly helpful. Such as: “Anna must have completed what she came to do.” Wrong: She had just begun to live into her mission.
Or this one: “Her death must have been part of God’s plan.” Wrong: How could taking a child in the prime of life be any part of God’s loving desires for us?
Or this one: “God needed a new angel in heaven.” Wrong: God doesn’t need any more angels, for He already has enough.
Or, finally, this most unhelpful sentiment: “God only takes the best.” Wrong: What kind of God would take the good ones and leave the bad ones for us?
I received so much kindness through all the notes, texts, calls, and emails that people sent. Everyone’s contact mattered.
If ever you know anyone who loses a loved one, reach out. Even if you don’t quite know what to say—write. Even if you think your words will be inadequate—write. Even if you have had a break in the relationship—write. Get over whatever might be giving you any reluctance or hesitancy and do the right and kind thing. The person you reach out to will be blessed by receiving your words, and you will be blessed by giving them.
Although I knew I needed and wanted to receive the kindness of others, I have had a very difficult time being kind to myself. I kept on thinking there must have been something I could have done to protect Anna. I kept on feeling that I had let her down, that I had fallen short as her father, that I had failed to keep her alive.
I had a breakthrough this week in being kind to myself while trying to be kind to someone else. As this woman was sharing the challenges, even hurts, that she has experienced in her life, I just happened to look at the shelf beside my desk, where I saw an oil stock. An oil stock contains oil that has been blessed by a bishop to anoint the sick or the dying. I have used that oil to anoint those in every kind of distress and those who are leaving this life for the next one.
I showed her the oil stock and explained what it is used for, and then I asked her to lean forward by Zoom so that I could anoint her. It was a touching moment for her, I think, and then I knew that I needed to anoint myself. For forty years, I have been extending God’s kindness through that holy oil to others, and it became clear that I was long overdue to do the same for myself. It may sound a little magical that this anointing of myself would have had any impact, but the mystery of God’s grace broke through, and I was able to extend, finally, some kindness to my needy and broken heart.
- Who has been kind to you? Have you ever thanked them? Who has been unkind? Can you forgive them?
- What would it cost you if you more often looked at, spoke to, and thought about people with more kindness? What would they and you gain if you did?
- If you were to anoint yourself with holy oil, where do you most need God’s kindness to touch your heart, soul, mind, and life?