For 43 years of my life we were hardly ever separated. I feel like I loss my best friend. I’ll never forget that dreadful day in October; I talked to my dad on the phone the night before. He was unresponsive the next morning.
My dad was the pastor of this church for 44 years and associate pastor for 10 so all together almost 54 years at this church. He died on a Tuesday and the next day I had to address the church, not only was I mourning, but the church was grieving as well. In the African American church when the Senior Pastor dies they drape the chair as a sign of mourning for 30 days. The transition from being Associate Pastor to Pastor was quick! That Sunday I had to come in and preach. Shortly after that I had to do funerals for long time members here. It was difficult.
There were 200 people looking to me to get them through the journey of grief. Not knowing that I was suffering the loss of my pastor and my dad. I became numb. It was as if the members of the church were passing away rapidly after that. I said Lord do you know how important these people are to me? I began picking my moments when I could grieve; it was primarily away from the church. I was now the leader of the congregation. There were others looking to me to show them the way.
It was difficult to eulogize members that I’ve been knowing all of my life and I wasn’t over my grief, or I would say I wasn’t addressing it. I became a runner. I ran from addressing my own grief. My therapy was accepting every preaching engagement that was presented. After doing that for 13 months straight, I worked my body into exhaustion. My body said no more, and my emotions began to get the best of me. My reality check was that I had a family depending on me. Not just my wife and kids, but my church family as well. Prayer saved me, and became my form of release.
I think it’s exceptionally important to talk about grief in the black community. Being a Pastor for almost 2 years and an Associate Pastor for 21 years I’ve noticed that after we have the funeral, cemetery, and repast (meal/dinner served after a funeral with family, friends, and the community) we pretty much consider our job done but so many people go home broken. I think this project is great because it helps people to realize that grief is natural and it starts the process of healing.
There’s a passage in the bible that says when we go through, the God of all grace will give us strength to comfort those who are in trouble, but God will comfort us also. The word comfort in Greek means to pull close. God will comfort you and will bless you with someone that has been there. You can sympathize or empathize but you really don’t know what a person is going through until you have sat in their seat. Today, I’m sitting in that seat.