Good Grief

Sadness flies away on the wings of time
~ Jean de La Fontaine

I once interviewed an 88-year-old war veteran who buried three wives in his remarkable life. The obvious question I had for him was, “How did you cope with so much loss?” He thought for a minute, his eyes began to water and he softly replied, “How do you know happiness if you’ve never known sadness?”

Ahhhhh, the wisdom of the old.

I have been profoundly sad recently. First, an old friend died unexpectedly leaving behind his wife and young son. A few days later, another friend laid her 13-year-old son to rest. At the funeral home, I found a seat near the little boy’s open casket. It may have looked like I was praying. I wasn’t. I was thinking about sadness – how unwelcome it is and yet, how useful. I tried to figure out a few ways grief is good.

I thought of four.

Sadness Connects Us
When my friend died, I called an old buddy I hadn’t talked with in more than ten years. It was as if we had just spoken last week. We laughed and reminisced about the good times of our past. I told him I love him. I mean, I actually said those words. Under normal circumstances, that wouldn’t have happened.

Sadness Motivates
I have done more writing in the past two weeks than ever before in my life. I want my daughters to know their father; my history, my struggles, my redemption and my heart. They will have this.

Sadness Makes Happiness Happier
Two days after my friend’s untimely death, I was with my father-in-law in New Orleans celebrating his ninety-fourth birthday. He got a standing ovation at the WWII Museum by a room full of strangers. I have never enjoyed my time with him more. It’s as if the darkness of sadness made our time together that much brighter.

Sadness Forces Thought
When we’re happy, we rarely stop and think about why we’re happy. But when we’re sad, we think more deeply about the things that matter to us most. If we’re faithful, we draw closer to God. We pause for a time, and then begin the search for a way out.

Sadness will come and go. It’s normal, necessary and even helpful. It’s an unwanted visitor for sure, but the next time it shows up at your door, remember the wise words an old man: “How do you know happiness if you’ve never known sadness?”

Find your good in the grief.

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