When words aren’t enough

Last week I found myself standing at the front of a church, officiating at a double funeral for a mother of two and a 14 year old boy. I struggled to find words of comfort. As an intern during seminary I remember officiating at my first funeral. I met with the family of the deceased. Their first words to me went something like, “I’m glad she’s gone. She was a grumpy and mean woman.” It was my job to share a mediation and eulogize this wife and mother. Somehow I found the words to say.

Last week was different.

The mother died due to medical complications. The boy ended his own life. These children of God were connected to each other in deep and mysterious ways. The woman was there at the birth of the boy. Her family and the boy’s family played, worshiped, and shared family meals together. They were proof that family is more than blood.

So I found myself standing in front of the church, searching for words. There is a temptation that preachers face at moments like this. We want to say, “They are in a better place” or “All things work together for good.” But even preachers know that these words are hollow. A 14 year old boy should be at home with his parents. A mother of two children needs to be with her family.

There were no neatly packed sermons with three simple points. As much as this theology nerd hates to admit it, there are some questions that will not be answered. Like Job of long ago, our whys are met with a deafening silence. When words fail or have the potential to ring hollow the only option is to make space. Make space for tears. Make space for anger. Make space for frustration. And make space for silence.