When the funeral is over and all the people have gone home, that's when the painful and difficult journey commences.
It was only during the first week of the school holidays that my son asked me to attend with him, the funeral of one of his surfing mates. The young man who passed was only nineteen years old and sadly he took his own life. It was a difficult funeral to attend, and the church was ‘packed’ with teenagers and young adults. My son has now had to come to terms with the suicide of 3 young men, friends and acquaintances, who he has known through his connections in the Maroubra surfing community. In the midst of the overwhelming grief there was a desperate atmosphere of trying to make sense of this. This is an alarming statistic that reflects the impact of what health professionals are calling a mental health ‘epidemic’ in our nation. When I was last in India, I read a news article that addressed similar statistics in schools and universities in Mumbai. The incidence of suicide related to students not coping with the pressure of their academic performance across Asia, for example in Singapore, is recognised as a national well-being priority. The need for each other to talk, have conversations, and to check-in with one-another is clear. I see that strong schools, with excellent well-being programs are key in helping children and teenagers navigate the stresses and challenges of life. I am thankful for the foundations of a Claremont College education that prioritises the well-being, resilience and flourishing of the children.
And this Tuesday I attended what was perhaps the most heartbreaking funeral I have ever attended. Whilst it’s a relief that this was not related to anyone from our school community, none-the-less, the circumstances are about as harrowing as one could possibly imagine. A little boy from my church, Josiah, died on the day of his first birthday. Josiah was accidentally killed by his father, who was reversing the family car. I attended the funeral to support not just the family, but also to be there for a number of my very close friends including my pastor, who all have the enormous task of caring for Josiah’s mother and father, over the days and years ahead. Whilst it was tinged with hope and faith, this funeral was just so, so sad. Words can not express and so many questions just cannot be answered. The tears flowed the moment we all walked into the church.
I share this news because I know that the mother and father, and wider family, desperately need prayer. There was also a powerful sentiment conveyed through the eulogies that has really impacted me, and has drawn me to write about this. The message was simple…
Life is fragile and we must never let the fusses and small stresses of life cloud what is most important to us all… our family and friends. We must keep perspective and never live with regret. We must reconcile with loved ones. Fights and unresolved conflict are not worth it. We must never be too busy to enjoy time spent with family, and we must always tell our each other how much we love them. In my busyness, I must confess that I am guilty of not always getting this right. I get busy and upset about stuff that really is not important. Josiah’s mother and father spoke courageously at the funeral. The raw emotion was heartbreaking to watch and experience. The mother feared that she “would not be able to get up off the floor” the day after the funeral. Please pray for them all.
So with this, I pray that we would all take the time this weekend to enjoy the blessings before us. Enjoy the crisp winter morning, enjoy the sun, connect with family who you don’t see enough, enjoy the company of your children and loved ones. Tell them that you love them more than ever before.
As a community, we must be committed to walking alongside those who are grieving for the long haul. When the funeral is over and all the people have gone home, that's when the painful and difficult journey commences.
Thanks Warren Wong instagram.com/wflwong for the image