When one of my advisees received shocking news of a death in her immediate family on Saturday evening, my heart broke with her pain and sadness. When the next day another advisee lost another close family member, I wasn’t sure how to prepare to meet the chapter’s needs. I pulled out my resource kit to reexamine how to talk about religion in a sorority where members are of different faiths (or no faiths at all) — to be supportive and honest and encourage them to lean on each other as they searched for meaning in this difficult time.
In my heart (or is it your head where you compose a prayer before you pray it? Are pastors praying when they write the prayers or only when they read them out loud during service?) I planned a bit of what I could say, if it was appropriate or needed, not knowing if it would be tears or nerves or short tempers or friendship that would be the most apparent when I entered their environment.
We don’t all call out to God by the same name — and some of us do not believe that he is there at all. We come from different backgrounds, different faith communities and different families, and we don’t have all the answers. Today, it feels a bit like we don’t have any answers. But together, we believe that sacrificial love — that true friendship and caring for our neighbors and reaching out to those around us — can cover the darkness. That in the end, love conquers evil. And so, while we don’t understand why these things happen, we look to each other for friendship and compassion as we move forward together.
My thoughts weren’t needed. I didn’t have to make any sort of religiously sensitive, diversity-aware faith statements or offer any deep counsel. The women were focused on their tasks at hand and depending on each other for support. They are hanging in there, and they certainly didn’t need me to make any kind of grand moral statement on the meaning of the world.
And so I came home, glad. I didn’t really think I had the emotional intelligence to handle that conversation anyway.
And then a distant friend of my family, a woman only one year older than me, was hit head-on by another driver, while she was in the car with her mother, her three-year-old daughter, and her two-week-old son. Her mother passed away during surgery, she has been in and out of surgery multiple times already, her two-week-old son has a broken femur, and her three-year-old daughter is barely hanging on. Her daughter may not be with us through the night.
And my heart is broken again. How is all of this possible? How can so much darkness fill this world?
And I still don’t know why. But I am convinced, certain, that sacrificial love conquers evil, and that true friendship is our way of exhibiting this love in our dark and stormy world. And so, I tell myself this again, hoping it will take. I worked so hard to get the words right for everyone else, but it looks like it was always meant for me.
Megan, my dear, our heartfelt prayers are with you and yours. You are loved.