Crossing the Barrier | Adventist Review
An icy wind blew around our car as we drove south towards my husband’s homeland, Yugoslavia. Newly married and living in France while he was finishing his theological studies, we were on our way to his older sister’s house for the Christmas holidays. I was looking forward to seeing his family and having more time with my wife, with one exception: Adventists in Yugoslavia at that time did not celebrate Christmas at all. It would be a first for me not to do anything special on December 25th.
No Christmas party
My husband had told me why they had not observed Christmas. Catholic and Orthodox churches dominated the religious scene in Yugoslavia, with one observing December 25 as Christ’s birthday, the other January 7. a big New Year’s Eve affair instead. So I had resigned myself to just enjoying the family and all of its unique cultural ways.
Marija, my sister-in-law, was more like a mother to us. She was the eldest of 11 years and my husband was the tenth, so the gap in years made her behavior understandable. I learned that she had been engaged to a young Swiss who attended the Bible school in Zagreb, where she was also a student. They were both passionate about winning people to Christ. Marija was a good people person who drew others to her with her warm personality. I knew that from experience. She has always been generous and loving with me.
But the wedding never took place. One afternoon, as she and her fiancé were walking on the sidewalk, they came across two French-speaking men who were loudly arguing. Her fiancé speaks: “My brothers, why are you fighting? At this, one of the men pulled out a knife and stabbed him! Before her eyes filled with horror, Marija saw her beloved collapse to the ground, dead.
Tragedy pursued her until she found love again. Her husband, a successful watchmaker and businessman, had provided her with a comfortable home, the house we lived in at the time. So, on the evening of December 24, my husband and I lay down on the sofa bed next to the coffee table and fell asleep.
Yes, Christmas Party!
A few hours later, light filtered through the lace curtains, waking me to Christmas morning. As I turned around, I saw the glow of something on the table. A small clear plastic tree with tiny colorful ornaments shimmered in the middle of a few packages. I was shocked and moved. How is it possible? How could my precious Marija, who had never set foot outside her country or far beyond her Adventist culture, do this for me? I cried as I opened a package to find the handy gift of stockings. Then, another package with chocolates, my favorite treat. And finally, a bigger gift: a set of exquisite crystal glasses.
I still have four of those glasses today. They remind me that love knows how to interfere in the lives of others. We who have also loved and lost know something about the grieving widows and widowers around us. We know some of what is needed when we step over the barrier that threatens to keep the bereaved alone in their emotional pain. A hug, tears of sympathy, a listening ear, a plate of food, a few words of understanding, a visit or a phone call or a card from time to time, helps maintain the routines of life while the person is temporarily paralyzed.
My neighbors did it for me over six years ago. They had lost a brother in the mission field and understood. They came to sit quietly with me in my living room. They hugged me and played a beautiful song. They spoke of peace and hope. They listened. Over the next few months, they brought me flowers, worked in my garden, saved me from domestic dilemmas that my husband had always worried about. Busy as they were, they spent themselves on me. They showed me that I was a precious part of their life, and I will always love them for it.
Marija, Lois, Laurence and a host of others populate my widowed world and inspire me to do for others what they have done for me: break through the barrier, step into the life of a grieving person and whisper, “You’re not alone. ”
15 ways to break the barrier
- After attending the funeral or memorial service, continue to visit or call the mourner for a short chat and prayer.
- Tell them about the good things you remember about their loved one or tell personal stories of your interactions with them.
- Ask them to show you pictures and tell you about the life of their loved one, and listen carefully.
- Use the appropriate touch to show you care.
- Show up to clean the house, wash the car, or do yard work at the start of their grief.
- Bring them a special dish of food after about a month, when the food is gone.
- Be a resource person to meet practical needs (plumbing, electricity, mechanics, etc.).
- Invite them to join a small group, prayer group, or Bible study group.
- Give them a CD of sacred music with beautiful, hopeful songs.
- Invite them for a walk in a park or other natural area. Being outside heals.
- Invite them to an outing (mini golf, concert, bird watching) or to eat together.
- Invite them to a Sabbath meal.
- Sit with them at church or other meetings you both attend so they aren’t alone.
- If they have low vision, suggest that they read a book of their choice regularly.
- On the anniversary of the first year of mourning, do something special for them that shows you listened to their words, their hearts.
Brenda Kis writes from Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she joyfully devotes her days to whatever program God has in store for her!