This morning as I finished my prayer time I said to my wife, Karen, “It is like I have come down the staircase into the realities of my life.” A dear friend who fought a courageous battle with congestive heart failure is dead. Any words I could write don’t fully describe how I feel like I’ve been hit by a two by four.
The many things I wanted to say to Kathie can never be said on this earth. I am comforted knowing she is with her Lord, but what can I say to her husband, Blaine? He’s hurting inside so much. Words just don’t seem to be enough. I have an emotional hangover. No music I listened to could take away this awful gnawing emptiness I feel inside.
I have as a pastoral counselor tried to be there for so many in their time of great need. I spent a night on suicide watch with a dear brother in Christ, who had become so worn down by one crushing blow after the other. He had been treated like a piece of garbage by an uncaring system, who said he was a vegetable. He had fought so hard, so much the warrior for his Lord. He was a tired knight for Christ who needed to cry.
Christ had called me to hear my friend’s pain. As morning’s dawn came a new hope and a revived strength surged through him. We rejoiced together that light had won out over darkness.
Reflecting upon that experience, I am reminded that mere words didn’t win the battle over my friend’s soul. There needed to be action behind them, love given without reserve.
Perhaps, like me today, you feel life has hit you with a two by four. You are at the point where you are ready to give up. None of the things you speak in your prayers are helping you. You love your Lord. You serve Him with a giving and loving heart, but you’re just feeling so sad inside.
It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be real about your pain. Your loving Heavenly Father never asked you to be a brave soldier. John Wayne even as he wrestled with the fact that he had cancer, had to come to understand this was one battle the Duke wasn’t going to win.
At the 1979 Academy Awards John Wayne tried so hard to be strong. It was clear then to both his fans and his colleagues that he was losing his battle with cancer. That took courage. John Wayne never stood taller in my eyes that night, because he allowed us all to see his pain. He understood that mere words wouldn’t fully communicate the sorrow he was feeling. The actor was no longer acting. He was being real.
Think what he must have felt when he was showing us how he was losing his battle with cancer.
The Duke has left his earthly stage. Even he ever the man’s man, the hero of movies like The Shootist, The Longest Day, which recreated the D-Day invasion and True Grit, must have known he was dying. Johnny Carson fights back the tears. The Duke is making his last stand. Two months later he would be dead.
The Shootist tells the story of the last days of gunfighter John Bernard Books, who is dying of cancer.There is a line that stands out in that movie for me when Books says, “I’m a dying man scared of the dark.” Art was imitating life.
When death comes to all of us, those who love us recognize that words alone don’t begin to ease their pain or ours. John Wayne knew that. Kathie too as I saw the knowingness in her eyes that she was dying needed more than Blaine’s words, Karen’s, me or the many people who loved her and mourn her loss. A light of love for the downtrodden has gone out.
We all in our own way sought to say with our heart what we found we often could not verbalize. And that’s okay. When you love from the heart you give a message of enduring love. That is when words framed with love are enough.