It seems that the older I get the more in touch with mortality I become. Not to say that I think about my mortality often; I am just face to face with man's fraility as friends and loved ones pass from this life. I realize that this life is temporary.
Last month, our dear friend, Bill Cullen passed away. His passing was both a relief and a sorrow. Days following his passing, my friend Gwenda and I spent an evening going through his family photos so that we could have pictures displayed at his funeral. We were able to share memories of him and his wife, who passed away several years prior. We had some great laughs and some tears.
As the day of the funeral approached I had been asked about music and poetry that could be shared during the services. When I thought about Bill and his impact on my family and his great affection towards me and Victor I immediately thought of the poem: "The Bridge Builder". This poem was placed in the program along with his picture.
When Sharon, Bill's wife, was alive I had played "O Divine Redeemer" as a rest piece during Sacrament Meeting. Both Sharon and Bill expressed their appreciation for the music and what it had meant to them. When Sharon died, Bill asked me to play the piano during the services. I was honoured to do so. When I was asked about music for Bill's services the music for "O Divine Redeemer" came to mind. I could hear the beautiful voices of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in my mind, each word leaving profound feelings upon my soul. I offered to play this piece again for Bill's services. Understanding the great sacrifice that the Saviour has made for each of us I knew that this song completely represented Bill's faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.
I guess by now you are asking why I bring this up nearly six weeks after his passing and funeral services.
In the past I have struggled with my ability to express my condolences to those who have lost dear family members and loved ones. I never knew what to write in a card or how to say what I felt for the one left suffering the loss.
Good Housekeeping has this to say:
"As life goes on, sorrows as well as joys come to my lady. Mr. Bennett, a family friend, dies, and flowers are sent to the house, no longer great set forms, nor exclusively white and purple blossoms, but long-stemmed flowers of any color, tied with white satin ribbons. My lady calls on Mrs. Bennett, and though she does not see her, leaves a note expressing in a few simple words her affection and sympathy. The only possible comfort one can give in time of bereavement is the assurance that the sorrows is shared by all the circle of friends. It is not the time for a sermon but for words of human love. Where the number of letters of condolence is too large to be answered with personal notes, it is sometimes the custom of mourning family to issue small black-bordered cards, engraved with a few lines of appreciation."
As Latter Day Saints, we sometimes sound trite in our responses when we express our condolences. We know the purpose of life and understand the Plan of Salvation. This makes it easy for us to say that we know we will see this person again or that they are in a better place. To those who don't have a complete understanding of the Gospel these words sound empty and impersonal.
When we share our expressions of love and concern for those that are left behind in sorrow we need to acknowledge them and their feelings. The loss is real; the feelings of pain, sadness and loneliness are real. Our compassion and love as taught by the Saviour are more powerful and profound to the person who is suffering.