- Cullman, Alabama

August 20, 2013

SOUTHERN STYLE: The Sound of breaking hearts

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

— There are always those things that have to be done — laundry, dishes, beds to be made and meals to be cooked. Those things are sometimes automatic, just because our hands have been accustomed to doing them for so long. Often the necessity of doing these things brings a little order back into our lives. We work, we come home, we read the mail, walk the dog, all familiar and somehow comforting routines.

Yet, at the same time we go through these day-to-day rituals, somewhere, someone has received bad news, someone is placing a rose on a newly covered grave, or is waiting in a hospital somewhere for the words that will spell out life or death — and their lives are altered forever.

So many people are dealing with painful situations, making decisions that they never thought they would be in a position to make — life support, surgeries, changing jobs and signing papers that end a marriage or sell a family home.

We never know what is going on in the lives of the people we encounter. The lady who absentmindedly brushed her hair back from her forehead and stumbled a little bit coming out of a building might have just learned that she has terminal cancer. The boy who delivers our paper might be tired from hearing his parents arguing all night, the teacher we love might be coping with a divorce.

Sometimes, if you are quiet enough…you can almost hear the sound of breaking hearts.

In the South, we bring food when someone dies. It’s traditional to do so because long ago when someone died, people traveled lengthy distances by horse drawn buggies or trains, to attend a funeral service. The bereaved family frequently had house guests for a week or longer, so neighbors and friends brought food to ease the burden on the stricken family. We still call it just what it is — comfort food.

Often divorce is as hard in some ways as a death. Someone is leaving — someone is left behind to try and pick up the pieces.

Terminal illness frequently requires months, even years, in some cases, of caring for a loved one, watching them die by degrees, knowing that there is nothing we can do to prevent the inevitable.

So, what do we do for our friends and family, and for ourselves, when these harsh facts of life present themselves on our doorsteps? We bake cakes and make casseroles, we offer to drive someone to a doctor’s office, or we send flowers. We sit and cry with them, or offer whatever small comforts that we can. But, most of the time all we can do for one another is to offer our prayers.

Prayers for healing, for reconciliation, for peace of mind…

Prayers to bring people together, to ease financial burdens, to bring a lost soul into the fold, to dry tears, to erase harsh words, to end suffering.

Often times our prayers aren’t answered in the way we’d hoped. It feels as though our pleas stop at the ceiling. We don’t understand, and actually, He told us that we wouldn’t, so we shouldn’t be surprised. Seeing through a glass darkly is only part of the mystery. Perhaps our frail human eyes are not ready for what He has in store for us.

When our pain is too much to bear, when death and heartache surround us, we need to “pray without ceasing” because that connection in prayer is a gift that He has given us to see us through.

Prayers cost us nothing, but when they are heartfelt, sincere and earnest, they are the most valuable gift we have to offer.