Kate and her 3-year-old son, Josh, were stirring up his favorite chocolate chip cookie ingredients. After they placed the dough on cookie sheets and slipped them into the oven, Josh ran outdoors to play. Kate told herself that she’d join him after the cookies were baked in three or four minutes.
When she entered the back yard she didn’t see Josh. Her calls went unanswered. She glanced at the swimming pool and was startled to see the gate standing ajar. Screaming, she raced to the pool and found Josh lying on the bottom. She dived into the pool fully clothed and brought him to the surface. All her skills at CPR were applied. A neighbor called 9-1-1, but all the efforts of the EMTs could not revive Josh.
The dark cloud of sorrow filled Kate’s home. The emptiness screamed from every square foot of every room. For two years Kate could not make cookies.
A kind friend embraced Kate and told her not to make cookies until she had spent adequate time mourning for Josh. She told her, “Someday you’ll make Josh’s cookies again, but not now.”
Kate’s friend moved to another state, but they remained in contact. A little over two years after Josh died, the friend received a box in the mail containing a tin full of Josh’s cookies and the treasured recipe. The pain had mellowed, and the memories were held in Kate’s heart.
Put Yourself in the Picture
If Kate’s Josh had been your Sabbath School student, what might you have noticed or heard?
- Kate might have stayed away from Sabbath School for months.
- If she had been an assistant leader, she probably would have asked to be excused from serving.
- She might have returned in a few months to bring her oldest child to another department, but stayed to diligently watch over him.
- Whenever children recited their memory verses and sang songs for the adult Sabbath School, Kate might have rushed from the room in tears.
- On some Sabbaths you would no doubt have seen the lines of heartache on her face.
As a leader in Josh’s room, what could you have done? Assuming you are female, let me make a few suggestions:
- Visit Kate in her home. Listen while she tells her story many times. You would not try to take away her pain, just quietly be present with her. Allow tears to flow (perhaps mingled with your own) and embrace her as she sobs.
- With her consent, you could assist her with household duties. Her energy levels would be low because of the major blow to her central nervous system. So you could run errands for her or accompany her when she cares for business.
- She would probably be confused and unable to organize herself. A good friend like you could be a big help in prioritizing items that need attention. You would need to anticipate her needs, because she may not know what would be helpful.
- When she returned to church worship, you would make sure she and her son did not sit alone. You would encourage other friends not to avoid her, because she would need support more than ever.
- Maintain steady, friendly contact for months and years. She needs to know that the church has not forgotten Josh. Reminisce with her. Mourning is easier when people who knew Josh share stories about him. Phone her for no reason at all. Invite her to call you. It helps her to feel less alone. Pray with her if she is open to prayer. Remember, your loyalty and friendship is a living reminder of Jesus.
The key insight is that Kate should not have to rely solely on what you do in the class. You carry God’s love outside the church and into her home. That’s real leadership.
If your church or a community agency conducts a bereavement support group for parents who have lost a child, Kate may consider attending. Offer to attend with her. A real leadership friend does what the Holy Spirit does. She comes alongside to comfort and give inner reinforcement. What an awesome and rewarding ministry.
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists