affectivity death of a loved one

"God What Have YOU Done?" Sorrow at the Passing of a Loved One

6:00:00 AMJeremy Schupbach


I don’t have the statistics to back this up, but I have the impression through personal encounters that the main reason people lack faith in God is not because they doubt his existence, but because they actually hate Him. 

This sentiment is unfortunate, but when it stems from a horrible tragedy, particularly the death of a loved one, it almost seems justified. “Why would God have done this?” “How could God have done this?” I have heard these questions asked from many mouths, and then almost always, after a pause and in a softer, often disparate, voice, “I hate God.” 


I am pretty talkative, but this always shuts me up  because I have never been in their shoes; I have never lost someone whom I dearly loved. So no matter what I say, they can tell me that I don’t understand, and they will be right, I don’t. 

At least I didn't until recently when it became quite clear that my grandma, who as I write this is still alive, has very, very little time remaining. 


It is difficult to explain how I came to love my grandma so much but I think it is just because she loved me so much first. And the older I got the more I picked up on that, especially when I confided in her that I am discerning the priesthood. She always wanted a priest in the family, and when I admitted her into my confidence, her eyes glowed brighter than any eyes I have ever seen before (although of course she said she had always known). Beholding the love in both of my grandparents eyes in that moment is still one of the most treasured memories of my entire life. As an Irish folk tune expresses with remarkable veracity, “When Irish eyes are smiling, sure ‘tis like the morn in Spring.” (my grandma is passionately Irish) 


It is true that the death of my grandma will not impact my life nearly so much as the deaths that many others have experienced, such as the loss of a spouse, or the loss of a parent for a young child, or for a parent to lose a child, and especially the death of a young person. It is true that her death lacks the character of immense tragedy that many other deaths have. But the truth remains that my sorrow at the prospect of parting with her for the rest of my life is wholly genuine, for it seems to me that there are two things necessary for sorrow, and that is love, and loss, and both are present. 




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Which brings me to the essential thesis that I would like to present, which is that sorrow presupposes love. At first glance this seems obvious, how could anyone feel sorrowful over losing someone that they did not love or care about? If one was to read the list of names in the obituary, they would certainly understand the misfortune of these deaths, and comprehend the hardship implied for the loved ones, but they themselves would not feel sorrow, because they had never known or loved the deceased. 


Simple though this revelation might seem, it has very important implications. For love also implies gratitude. To love a person, in some sense, means to be grateful for their existence, and to none other than God. Genuine sorrow, then, is incompatible with hatred of God. 


In my own case I feel this quite clearly. To best describe my sentiment of sorrow, I must first explain how happy I am that I was loved and got to love my grandma for 20 years. I am eminently joyful that this incredible woman was my grandma. I would never  have wanted another woman to be my grandma and I am wholeheartedly thankful to God for the amazing gift of her presence in my life. 


In no way is it my intention to pass judgment on those who have experienced similar and greater tragedies, and have felt angry at, and possibly hated God. But my own experience reminds me, and I hope to remind the reader, that this is not proper to genuine sorrow. The loss of a loved one should not result in despair, which responds to the loss of something precious by lashing out against the fount of preciousness itself. On the contrary, genuine sorrow is an occasion for a new and heightened response to the value of that person, and also to God for bestowing that gift. 


Of course it is my hope that my grandma will continue to live as long and as happily as is possible, but whatever may happen, it remains that I love my grandma dearly and with my whole heart, and this is a reminder to me of the greatness and goodness of God, and no separation could ever alter that.


Rather than curse God, “God what have YOU done?” sorrow instead pushes me to the opposite extreme. Overcome by the gift of my grandmother, I tend more to be lost for words, and ironically the same maxim expresses quite well the murmur of my dumbfoundedness and astonishment at the beauty of her Irish eyes, “My God what have You done!” 






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