Catcher and Pitcher
By JIM NICHOLS
Do you ever wonder what the catcher says to the pitcher when he visits the mound? A reporter asked a catcher, and the response was: “I tell him that this batter cannot hit an inside curve ball nor can he run fast. Furthermore, he tends to be afraid of getting hit by a pitch.” The reporter continued, “Doesn’t the pitcher already know all that?” The catcher responded, “Yes, he probably does. But I want to remind him because when he winds up, the pitcher will not have time to try to remember.”
Have you noticed that much of what we say to one another is not really new information? Mostly what we do is remind each other of what we already know. Perhaps some reminders would be good for you and me.
One reality you and I face is that we live lives that include consistent losses. Some are minor, but others are highly significant. We lose people or relationships important to us, treasured possessions, expired goals, or simply our youthful assets and capacities. Complicating these losses is that we feel incapable of “moving on.” We do not seem to be able to resolve the loss. Often, we do not even understand why the loss occurred; therefore, we say to ourselves, we do not know how to move past this full stop.
This is not a new problem for humans; we are all in this together. Therapist Pauline Boss decades ago coined the term “ambiguous loss.” There is a whole website (www.ambiguousloss.com) among others that attempts to flesh out this apparently common human predicament. Looking at it through Christian eyes might be helpful.
Our primary concerns are, logically, personal losses. Death of a loved one tops the list. Our lives are so woven together that these losses, as inevitable as they are, can still have a clear shock impact. Most people who enter the hospital sooner or later leave the hospital. However, some spend their last days or hours there, perhaps unexpectedly. What initially seemed to be a routine procedure turns tragic and the survivors are left reeling. Those of us watching this unfold must be cautious about unhelpful and trite comments. What is needed in fact is our presence and willingness to help, even in apparently incidental ways. Just standing or sitting around with bereaved is a strong ministry.
On other occasions, a death does not occur rapidly, but in slow motion over months or even years. Those of us watching must deal with anticipatory grief instead of immediate grief. Sometimes our language does not even know how to deal with human loss that is prolonged.
Years ago, writer Ellen Goodman wrote a fascinating article about the still-living Ronald Reagan. In a year following his Alzheimer’s diagnosis and clear decline, Goodman attended a tribute banquet for him. She noted that the several speakers did not seem to know whether to speak of Reagan in the present tense (“He has a good sense of humor”) or the past tense (“He loved his wife.”)
One of the gifts God has given us is the gift of resilience. This may not be a commonly used word by us, but it is powerful and has a clear spiritual connection. The ability to withstand difficulties does not look simply to our inward, human strength, but to God’s strength. God has promised not to forget us, not to abandon us. We have each known others, have we not, who have seemed to be able to keep moving through clearly human tragedy. They may not have moved quickly, but they have moved. Resilience does not necessarily “fix” a problem, but God’s people are called to be faithful and helpful to one another even during tragedy, immediate or prolonged.
The first parts of scripture do not say that everything was light; nor do they say everything was dark. Instead, everything was described as chaos. It was into that chaos that God began creating and organizing of sorts. That sprang from his love nature; one of the functions of love is to combat (perhaps not altogether defeat) chaos. Our love for others should aid them by supporting them in their chaos. It might be as simple as transferring some rocks from their backpack into ours.
Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current hospice chaplain
Losses are so hard to deal with and move forward from those losses. You mentioned “expired goals”– similar to my greatest loss–the death of dreams. Grief that never ends!