“Words won’t do anything.”
I was reminded of that again this week while standing with a husband who was watching his wife in her last 20 hours of breathing.
“Words won’t do anything,” he said.
He wasn’t trying to get rid of me or shut me up. He was stating the fact that we both knew to be true. I stood with the family. He asked me to pray and I did. I came back the next day and watched her breath. I came back awhile later and helped him grieve.
What was clear was that whatever words I had were not fixing anything. They were not changing anything. But they gave me an excuse to stay in his presence.
We didn’t talk politics or policies or platitudes. I did pray, when he asked, for peace and for God’s presence. And even those words didn’t “do” anything, like a magic formula would do something. But acknowledging the moment and asking God to make her aware of his peace and presence seemed to do something.
I am more aware than ever that words don’t fix anything in those deep moments of loss AND that words used incautiously can do almost irreparable harm. James reminds us that the tongue can do great harm. These days, the keyboard and touch screen are extensions of the tongue, of the voice. Things that once were confined to earshot now enter bloodshot eyes and exhausted hearts and destroy relationships.
I talked with a couple friends on their podcast “Dudes and Dads” about prayer and death and chaplaincy. They asked about written prayers, about helping kids pray, about performance anxiety in prayer, about what I do as a chaplain, and my prayer book. It’s a long conversation that felt very short. I invite you check out “Jon Swanson: Praying, Death, and Laughter – Thoughts from our Favorite Chaplain.”
We did it. Or better, you did it. Rich Dixon let me know on Thursday evening that we are now past $6000 given and committed to support the kids at Project Rescue’s HOME OF HOPE. Together, that’s caring for 15 of the 22 children for a month. That is amazing. If you’d still like to give, go here. Today is the last day for this initiative.