Love & Affection May Help Ease the ‘Whys’

Love & Affection May Help Ease the ‘Whys’

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


“Grandpa, I wish Uncle Chay could be alive again.” So began yet another conversation with my newly minted, “now-I’m-six-years-old” grandson.”

“I know you do Benjamin, we all wish the same thing, but it doesn’t work that way…” “Why?”

Benjamin can be “fresh” in a bad way, but more often than not, he is “fresh” in the best sense of that word. At six years of age everything seems new to him. He still sees life through eyes of wonder. He still sees life as an adventure. But he also sees the questions life poses through eyes that want answers; that expect an explanation. He is only just beginning to learn that not every question can be met with an answer.

His question spoken three years after his uncle died has no answer. Quite likely it never will. It is one of those lessons life seems insistent on teaching. Asking “why” is a perfectly normal question. Every one of us has done it and, if we live long enough, will ask it again and again. But what to do without answers is an even more important question.

Fortunately there is an answer to that. Benjamin, in an entirely “fresh” way, reminded me of that answer. Perplexed about what to say to him, I said it was okay to feel sad and to cry and that even Grandpa does that. After being informed that I was a “crybaby,” he must have sensed I needed some help. He snuggled in a little closer, poked me in the arm and said, “Don’t worry Grandpa, you’ll be dead soon anyway.”

Behind his response, I am sure, was his belief—taught by his family—that Uncle Chay was living in heaven. Since he assumes I will one day be going to heaven (big assumption by the way), he sought to console me with a word of hope. Thankfully I heard it that way and thanked him for that reminder. For in so doing, he reminded me in a new way of what I’ve always believed was the ultimate answer to the question of why. It is living in hopefulness, doing what Benjamin did, sharing love unconditionally with someone hurting or in need of any kind. Rather than linger very long on what cannot be changed, he did the one thing that comforted him and me. He snuggled in a little closer, letting me know he loved me, and spoke a kind word.

How much better would we handle the changes and the losses of our lives if we embraced the questions that cannot be answered and, even while grieving the changes and the losses, continued to live hopefully and expectantly? How new would we feel, how fresh, if we simply allowed others to snuggle in a little closer, accepting love, and allowing it to be the only answer that brings new life? How much better would we feel if we allowed ourselves to snuggle in a little closer and offered love, rather than answers, to someone else in pain and need?

A ministry to and with older adults, for whom change and loss are constant companions, doesn’t have to have the answers. It has to have the ability to speak words of love and comfort in concrete actions. It has to have the willingness to be vulnerable so others sense a possibility of being vulnerable with us.

Feel free to print or share with your congregation. © 2013 Rev. James Stinson