Once every three months, the Rush University Medical Center offers a memorial service for the patients who died in the previous three months. The Memorial Service is sponsored by the Women’s Board and by the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values. The most recent service, on Sunday, October 26, was facilitated by Chaplain Gary Wilson of the Department of Religion, Health & Human Values. Chaplain Krista Messam, a Northern Seminary student, was asked to offer the meditation for this service. It is entitled “A Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Here it is.
We come here today carrying a variety of emotions.
Some hearts are heavy
because your loved one was taken away from you.
Some hearts are comforted
knowing that your loved one no longer suffers.
There are those of you
who feel you are on the brink of tears,
While others of you
feel you have no more tears left.
Some of you may relate to the song sung by Mary Coultman today,
“Jesus is my portion, a constant friend is he, his eye is on the sparrow, I know he watches me.”
And others of you may relate more to the passage we heard earlier from the book of Lamentations,
“You have moved my soul far from peace; my strength and my hope have perished from the Lord.”
In the book of Psalms we also encounter a variety of emotions.
You may relate to the Psalmist when he says,
“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.”
Or you may relate more to the psalmist when he says,
“When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted.”
Some of you may relate to each of those emotions in the same week
or even on the same day.
Some of you may not relate to any emotion I just mentioned.
Grief over the loss of life looks different for each of us.
But there is one thing that we here this day have in common-
the loss of an important relationship.
We all notice that there is
a missing voice in the conversation,
an empty chair at the table.
• How Are We Comforted when we experience the loss of relationship?
What is our bridge over troubled water?
I have never been in your shoes, nor have I known the unique pain of your particular loss.
But as a chaplain, I have had the privilege of walking alongside those who have experienced loss
and I’ve observed four bridges or sources of comfort:
• The first bridge I’ve observed is the precious gift of memories.
You may be familiar with the song, “I’ll Be Seeing You” which we will have a chance to hear later in the service. A portion of the lyrics read,
“I’ll be seeing you, in all the old familiar places
that this heart of mine embraces, all day and through.
In that small café, the park across the way,
the children carrousel, the chestnut trees, the wishing well.”
As the song suggests, memories are often sparked by what we see, touch, hear or smell.
Memories are tied to special places.
Sometimes memories are tied to a personal possession or scent.
Holding on to memories shows up in different ways:
a widow is hesitant to move out of the house, or take her wedding ring off,
a mother won’t change the room of her child who passed away or
a father won’t get rid of his child’s clothes
We’re not so quick to move on because the memories of our loved one comfort us.
Where do you see your loved one?
What places or objects hold memories for you?
• The second bridge is a shared experience.
Isn’t that why many of us are here today?
We are comforted by others who share and understand our loss,
who’ve been there-
they get it.
Sometimes their mere presence comforts us
and we find we don’t need words.
• Thirdly, I’ve observed that some of us draw comfort from the promises of God.
We draw comfort from God’s promise in Psalm 46
“to be our refuge and strength, our very present help in trouble.”
We draw comfort knowing that
“God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
We draw comfort from God’s promise in Hebrews 13
“to never to leave us nor forsake us. “
Finally, we find comfort in our belief in the promise of new life, that this is not the end.
We place our hope in the promise that someday,
“God will wipe away every tear from our eyes;
there shall be no more death,
There shall be no more pain,
the former things will have passed away. “
• The last bridge I’ve noted is simply the presence of God.
David writes these familiar words in the 23rd Psalm,
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
A baby will cry and cry and cry until he is in the presence of his mother.
There’s something about the presence of his mother that brings comfort and security.
A five year old is lost and she panics.
But when all of the sudden she sees her father,
a wave of relief comes over her.
There’s something about her father’s presence that brings her peace.
The comfort of God’s presence is almost inexplicable.
God’s presence communicates to us,
“I’m on your side, when times get rough and friends just can’t be found, like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down”
Henri Nouwen wrote to his grieving father that real grief may never be healed by time,
But reality can be “faced and entered in the sincere belief that consolation and comfort are to be found where our wounds hurt most.”
As you continue to cross the troubled water of grief, remember the bridges or the sources of comfort that will carry you over.
Hold on to some of those visible reminders and memories.
Seek out those who share your experience, and who can relate to your loss.
As it is meaningful to you, hold on the promises of God and the hope that death does not have the final word.
And finally, draw comfort from the simple presence of God, knowing that He is with you.
As you receive comfort, you become equipped to BE a bridge, a source of comfort to someone else.
In 2 Corinthians we read,
“The Father of mercies, the God of all comfort: Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
My prayer for you today is that your hearts may be comforted,
and that in receiving comfort,
you yourselves will become comforters.
As you leave this place as both comforted and comforters,
those who cross a bridge over troubled water
and those who become a bridge for others,
May the Lord “bless you and keep you
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”