Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sitting Shiva

This morning Jennifer if heading over to Amy's parent's house. She is going to be there for Amy and her son as they grieve this loss. I am sure that many tears will be shed and a lot of crying will take place.

In the Jewish tradition there is a rite that takes place called "Sitting Shiva." This takes place when a death has occured and what happens is that people come over to the house of the family that suffered the loss. They sit with the widow/widower during their time of grief. Sitting shiva has no liturgy, there is no specific way to do it, but rather people just come and sit with the one suffering the loss. If the person wants to talk, they talk. If the person wants to do something, they do something. If the person just wants to sit, they sit.

This rite is extremely powerful because it brings the love of God to those who are hurting in a physical way. Having someone around to be a support, to listen, to cry with, is powerful and needed during a time of loss. There is always someone present to be a support as a person goes through this time of grief and sorrow.

Today, I am being called to pray for the compassion givers. For those who sit shiva with others. For those who are the rocks of support when we are in turbulent waters. May we all be that physical presence of grace to those who suffer.

1 comment:

Betty Dygart said...

Pastor E said, "May we all be that physical presence of grace to those who suffer."

This brings to mind an occurrence in my life. January of 2005, my sister Irene's husband had a heart attack. He didn't immediately seek care, but rather came home from work saying he had felt bad since noon, blamed it on some part of the lunch my sister had packed for him, and went out to mount the bladed tractor to remove the freshly fallen six inches of snow from the driveway.

He went to bed early, without eating supper, got up the next morning and told my sister to call his work, to tell them he was sick. He then struggled to get his coat on, the pain was that acute, and drove himself and my sister to the doctor's office.

Upon examination, he was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and taken directly to surgery. He had so much damage to his heart by this time that the surgeon said the consistency of his heart was "mushy" and it was like trying to suture a piece of hamburger.

Norb was never conscious again. He was in a drug induced coma, in an effort to have healing occur, but his kidneys failed, and it became clear that he was "not going to make it." It was, no doubt, clear to the doctors and nurses long before it was an acceptable conclusion for my sister and her six children.

January 30 is my sister's birthday. I drove to the Waukesha hospital on that Sunday to find my sister at the bedside of my comatose brother-in-law, along with her four sons and two daughters. They had all been out for Sunday brunch, in recognition of Irene's birthday. My sister had been in that room, "Sitting Shiva" beside Norb's struggling body every day since his hospitalization. The kids would come and go, working visits in around their work schedules, but it was she who was there all the time, from morning until 7:30 each night. It was an agonizing vigil.

My sister's oldest son, Tony, walked me to my car later that afternoon, after I had visited with them all for about four hours. He assured me that, "We are going to see Dad come out of this."

I had stood over Norb, spoken to him and had seen a tear slide down his cheek. I knew Norb was "still in there," but given all the reports I had heard, I doubted he could be returned to us. I hugged Tony, and told him I would be praying for that, but reminded him that it was in God's hands. I cried the whole trip back to Beloit.

My sister had told me that none of our siblings had been in to see her or the family at the hospital. I took it upon myself to call the other siblings, to update them on Norb's condition, as well as to urge them to get into the hospital to visit with our sister and her family.

The reaction of one of my brothers was "Why would I want to do that, if Norb isn't even conscious? He won't even know I'm there."

I was incredulous. I remember saying to him, "But Irene is there, and the kids are there. THEY need your presence."

Well, he never went. Nor did two of my sisters. One sister and her husband did go. My other brother lives in Missouri, so he had an excuse, but the others didn't; they live within fifteen miles of the hospital and yet they never took the time to go to "Sit Shiva."

On Valentine's Day, 2005, my sister and her family had all the tubes and machines removed, and my brother-in-law passed away within minutes. My sister said it was her last act of love, to release Norb's spirit from his failed body.

Compared to the experience of those six long weeks, "Sitting Shiva" over the failing body of her husband, the wake and funeral had to have seemed only a moment in length. I am glad I was able to share some of that time with my sister and her family, even though there was nothing any of us could do to save Norb; BEING THERE was important.