It starts with the phone call no one wants to get, but no one is exempt from receiving: your loved one is dying or has already died. Even if one thinks he or she is prepared for the physical death of a loved one, especially when the person is in poor health, one is never prepared for the emotions that follow. Consolation becomes a craving that grows with each passing moment. But consolation arrives, a bit at a time, from those who care about you and your loved one.
On the morning of April 2, I received “the phone call” from my brother, Dan, in St. Paul, Minn., informing me that our mom was being rushed to the hospital and it “didn’t look good.” Three-and-a-half hours later, she passed away. My long-standing fear of not being able to be there for her or my brother when she died had become reality. I finally arrived at 6 p.m. that evening to begin what so many other families had experienced under similar circumstances. And like so many other families, my brother and I searched for consolation in whatever form we could find.
Consolation arrived in many unique ways: through phone calls, messages, guest book entries, hugs and tears, smiles, and even some laughter from friends and family. Consolation arrived for my brother and myself through the time given to us by others; their ability to console, befriend, support, and provide for us and for what was about to take place.
In retrospect, consolation becomes an act of stewardship when people allow God to work through them as they find ways to reach out to others.
Consolation continues to arrive to my brother and myself, and we are so grateful for the care and concern we have received.
It was a new experience to be on the “other side” of the process that follows the death of a loved one. I knew there were a lot of decisions that had to be made very quickly, but it is overwhelming, and the craving for consolation becomes more intense. Like others before us, it was now our turn to do what was necessary in saying goodbye and laying to rest a loved one.
Knowing all too well that an act of stewardship flows out of an attitude of gratitude, my brother and I found ourselves carefully blending grief and gratitude together. Then the acts of stewardship, as well as recent and much older memories would soon become our consolation at one of the most difficult moments of our lives.
There was an outpouring of kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity from near and far, and consolation continues to arrive! Friends from North Dakota traveled to be with us, and the many friends and family gathered to remember and celebrate the past life and the new life of June Zimmer. Friends, parishioners, and others who couldn’t be there prayed for us. So, consolation arrived through each and every person by their presence or thoughts, with “June’s sons” for this tribute, for this prayer and liturgy, and for the hope we all have that, one day, we shall be reunited with our loved ones.
When consolation becomes an act of stewardship, let us not forget to thank God for the gift we have and are receiving. For the more we thank God for those gifts we each are to one another, the more the stewardship way of life becomes strengthened and present in the world around us. As my brother Dan and I have found out, it is especially important when the painful reality of our human life and death encircles us, reminding us that this life is temporary; what is eternal is to hope for, yearn for and pray for. Until that moment arrives for each of us, consolation will surprise us, when it is gratefully received and generously given in ways that are possible for each of us.
I thank God for the ways the stewardship way of life helps us to be disciples. Now I know, as does my brother, that when it happens in the form of consolation, it will always be an “act” that is deeply appreciated and treasured. As we prepare to acknowledge Memorial Day 2011, let us open our hearts to the consolation awaiting each of us.