Walking through the churchyard gate, I paused at his grave. Red flowers pointed to a recent visitor, perhaps his grandmother whose car was parked at the gate yesterday.
There are moments when you wish you could take people’s pain from them, somehow lift it clear of their shoulders, give them a moment when the shadow is not there. But what arrogance, what presumptuousness there is in the mere notion that you even understand how they feel. A psychologist friend said the biggest lie is to say to someone, “I know how you feel”. Unless you have been through an identical experience, then you have no idea how they feel, and, even then, no two people experience an event in an identical way.
Religious people can be the worst. There was a general practitioner in the North whose comment to a young couple who had lost their two little girls in a house fire was, “Remember, it all depends on having a right view of Jesus”. What did that mean? What did it mean to the couple in the depths of pain that could not be comprehended? What right had someone paid by the National Health Service as a medical practitioner to preach to people to whom he was providing professional care?
Perhaps he was the worst, but the ill thought comments are commonplace. “It’s all part of God’s plan”. What does that say to someone who has just lost their child, that somewhere there is some deity who is sitting there planning things in such a way that he or she visits the worst of nightmares on innocent parents? What sort of God would that be? Or if they don’t say it’s planned they will say things like “God has a place for them”. I don’t know what version of the Bible they have read, in the one I read a child’s place is with their family.
The secular world has become as bad. There is a sort of pseudo-spirituality amongst people who are not ordinarily religious which talks about stuff like the young person being taken to be an angel, or a star in heaven, or whatever. What does that mean? It’s as bad as the sort of language used by the religious, except it has no tradition behind it.
Standing at his grave, there is nothing that can be said; nothing that can explain; no possible rationalisation. Just shut up, because anything else is crass, ignorant and arrogant.