I used to work as the sole chaplain in a world class rehab center in a major hospital. There I had an experience which profoundly demonstrated to me the value and power of grieving.
The young man was a 21 year old Latin man that lived in a lower income drug infested-area of an inner city. He is a favorite of the whole staff at the hospital. For me and many others he was an example of how life and hope springs eternal, and of the redemptive spirit of the Lord. For a time this young man had got involved in drugs, but pulled out of it. It was not easy because most of his friends were still doing drugs.
The day of the accident he went to the Giants world series celebration, and afterward to a party. Two of his high school friends were posturing to fight, and he told one to stop it. As he was walking back to his car the guy came after him and stabbed in the back 4 times. He was crazed on drugs. As he lay bleeding a friend held him in his arms and kept him awake by slapping him and talking to him.
When he woke up from a three-day coma, he was happy to be alive, and didn’t want everyone around him crying all the time. Part or his spine was cut and he is paralyzed from the waste down, but he keeps getting little signs of feeling and movement. People are amazed by him because he has such a good attitude. He is not angry, and he is sometimes a sad, but he is enthused about art and computer graphics. We have talked about a lot of things. He said before he didn’t take too much interest in people, but now he listens to people closely and looks to see what they are about, and how he can help. I wondered if he needed to grieve. He said that maybe the grief hadn’t hit him yet. I wondered if he might not be ready to deal with it, but on Friday he enlightened me on how it is.
He told me four stories of how childhood friends from his neighborhood have died from drug related situations, and that was only the beginning. He told me how his best friend growing up kept getting more involved in drugs. They loved each other from childhood, and it hurt him deeply to see this. Two months before his accident his friend once again demanded money from him or he threatened to beat him up. He argued with him, but ended up giving him the money. That night he found out his friend died from an overdose. He was devastated and felt guilty. He said for three weeks he barely spoke. His heart was broken, and he was emotionally shattered. He stopped doing drugs altogether, and thought more about faith. He grieved deeply, and had to wrestle with these feelings deep in his soul. He said that the experience with his friend hurt him more than almost dying.
From the picture he painted it is remarkable how fast these kids move from innocence to drugs. He lamented how his friends became something he couln’t recognize, and that they wouldn’t listen to him. They all thought they knew better.
For him waking in the hospital was like heaven. He was surrounded by dedicated professionals that care about him, and teach him discipline. He responded to the opportunity of renewal and redemption that was before him. He escaped the world of drugs that many others get trapped in. He doesn’t allow friends that do drugs or don’t respect his life to see him, because as he says, he doesn’t want the staff to ever think he doesn’t take his rehab seriously. He is being regenerated. The two friends that helped him while they waited for the ambulance stopped doing drugs also. He may never walk, but he feels blessed that his heart is open and can see, and that he has lots of support and opportunity before him. He told me the staff studies his face, because they know he is trying to not show pain. He said he does this because he wants to be worked as hard as possible.
Grief is a form of love….please leave your own relfection on what this evokes.