Last night Marc and I went to our fourth Compassionate Friends meeting and Marc hit the jackpot for the first time. There were three other dads there! Our very first Compassionate Friends meeting in Kamloops had one dad but he was an elderly man who didn’t say anything. The three men last night were far more friendly and open. The men didn’t outnumber the women but to have three other men there was a game changer for Marc.
Last night was our make or break meeting. We had already decided that if it didn’t go well then it would be our last. This morning I asked him if he’d go back and he answered, “In a heart beat.” I found that surprising since he drove home in the rain fighting back tears. So I asked him why he answered with such enthusiasm and he said that he was standing in the same place of powerlessness, vulnerability, and not in control as these other men and he felt a deeper connection than he ever expected.
The hardest part of the meetings for Marc though is that they are not necessarily a place to share our faith and how it is through our trust that God is taking care of us that we keep moving forward every day no matter how hard it is. On the way home he was asking: How can one walk this road without God? Without our faith and hope in the resurrection how would we be able to face each day? To have that assurance that Bernadette is happy beyond our imaginings, no matter how painful it is for us because we miss her terribly, just feels wrong not to share it with the other parents. That he finds difficult.
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. We haven’t been going long enough to know if others share their faith at the meetings or not or if it really is not welcome because the meetings are meant to focus on what unites us – the loss of our children – not on what might divide us.
My encouragement to Marc was for him to be himself at the meetings. If he listened to a talk by Fr. Henri Nouwen then say it was from Fr. Henri Nouwenn not just that he listened to an interesting talk. When he shared that he gave a talk at our church say it was at church. He doesn’t need to cover up those telling details. What he shared about those two events in particular was not preaching at the group but sharing who he is. If there are others who pick up that he finds his help and strength in God then maybe it will inspire them to come to him privately and then he can share his faith with them.
The talk he gave at church was when he was invited to share his story at a CWL regional meeting held at St. Joseph’s. The theme was palliative care, and even though we did experience three intense months of palliative care, his sharing was more his journey of faith and coming to grips with the tragedy of losing Bernadette. He’s been asked to give a talk at the Hospice Society this Tuesday and this time the theme is grief but again the talk will be the same as he gave to the CWL (with a little tweaking) because it’s his faith and trust in God that is carrying him and helping him deal with his grief.
So in a way Marc has hit the jackpot on a number of levels. Meeting those other dads was such a highlight for him and hopefully further meetings will reap many blessings not only for him but for the other dads too. And giving talks where he had to reflect and put into words what he’s gone through has been in his words, “enlightening, meaningful, encouraging, and an opportunity for growth.” He has discovered the truth in the words of St. John of the Cross’ song Holy Darkness: In your deepest hour of darkness, I will give you wealth untold.