Comforting Others – An Act of Kindness
Comforting others can be uncomfortable for many of us. We don’t know what to say or how to act. Comforting others is an act of selflessness, as we think of someone else who needs a kind word or a reassuring touch.
Consider this short story, which illustrates the importance of looking beyond ourselves to help others in need.
Comforting Others - The Funeral
By Jeff Norberg
Sam made his way over the grassy hill toward the tree where the coffin would be buried. Over the rise Sam could see the tree with the triangular shaped hole in the front come into sight. The memories connected to this tree matched the number of grass blades on the hill. This was their tree, where Sam and Helen would come to be alone -- in good times and bad. If there were ever a time Helen just disappeared, more often than not Sam would find her there, inside that hollow trunk. It wasn’t much of a surprise then when she requested to be buried near this tree when she died. Sam would give anything to be able to find her in there now and hug and hold her once more. He knew that Jesus was holding her now, but still, it hurt. Near the tree, a crowd of mourners gathered on each side of the six-foot deep hole where her body would be lowered.
The pallbearers set the coffin down on the flat piece of wood, which would be lowered into the grave; then stepped off to the side to stand among the crowd. As the funeral went on, Sam kept glancing at an elderly woman dressed in black, a woman Sam knew all too well. Her name was Audrey Ryan, Helen's mother. He never really got along with Audrey, it was always a love-hate relationship between them. Every time they were all together, a spark of dissension would ignite a fire of argument, sometimes over something serious, but mostly it was trivial. Inside, Sam was searching for that animosity he held for Audrey to resurface, but he was struggling. Like opposing prizefighters, righteousness and pride were battling it out inside him. He tried to ignore her, tried to make excuses to himself, but it was no use. Seeing her standing by the gravesite, with her head down and covered by the dark veil, filled him with enormous sympathy. He knew she was going through unimaginable grief. He loved Helen more than life itself, but his loss and sadness couldn’t compare to Audrey’s loss of her only child; nothing could equal that pain. He knew this all too well, having watched his mother fall into a deep depression after the death of his sister.
He bowed his head and prayed a silent prayer that God would send someone to comfort Audrey, just like he had prayed for his mother in her moment of despair. Standing before him now, for the first time, he saw Audrey Ryan, a different woman, a mother who had just lost her only child. Seeing Audrey there, forced memories of his own mother to surface. After his mom died, Sam had always felt guilty for not doing more to comfort her. In his mind, he remembered standing next to her at her bedside when she was about to die herself.
“I should have done more. I’m sorry.” Sam said, holding his mother’s hand.
His mother turned toward him and whispered the words “I love you Sam, it wasn’t your fault.”
The memory faded away and he was looking at his mother-in-law again. He stood there and cried silent tears, for his mother and for Helen. Just like with his mother, Sam felt he could have done more for Helen that may have kept her alive. He died inside, blaming himself. He constantly prayed to the Lord in the week before the funeral, wondering if his prayers were bouncing off the ceiling. He knew now that they didn’t. As he stood and watched her he felt his heart begin to lighten and his focus begin to change. He felt as if God was giving him another chance and was saying to him, "It's never too late to help another of my children.” Those past grievances that had driven them apart faded from memory. He felt a deeper love for her than ever before. He slowly made his way over and stood beside her.
"Hello, Audrey." Sam said.
"Oh, Sam." Audrey said, understandably in tears. "What am I going to do? After Roger died, she was all I had left. I don't know how I'm gonna get through this."
His hand reached out to her as if he was a puppet and love, God's love, was the puppeteer.
He touched her softly on the shoulder. "Maybe, we can help each other."
She put her arms around him and cried. He stood there patiently with his arms around Audrey and was just there for her. By giving a little of himself, he felt his mind at peace. He realized then that his prayer he prayed for her had been answered. It wasn't in the way he had anticipated at the time, but it was answered in God's way. Sam may never get over Helen, a part of him didn't want to. He knew, however, by always being there for each other it would be a little easier for both of them to move on. Out of such a tragic situation God managed to bring togetherness out of bitterness and hope out of despair.