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By Forrest Hershberger
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This Journey Not Traveled Alone


February 23, 2022 | View PDF

My wife and I recently had dinner with a collection of people; most we knew, some more than others.

There were the conversations like old friends meeting again, and of newcomers gently entering the conversation..

One common thread went through the room: each person has had to confront loss through death. Death is an unfortunate fact of life. Biblically, biologically, and just the random roll of the dice living on this planet -- we all will face it at some point, on our own and when someone we’re close to passes on.

The question is what do we do with it? What do we do with the reality that we are allowed only a specific amount of time on this planet? Is it enough to say “It’s been a good run. I’ll take my turn in the six-foot box,” or is there more to it than that? Deeper still, how do we deal with being the survivor?

I ask the question because it ought to be addressed. When I was much younger in the community journalism experience, I came upon a two-vehicle accident, a fatality. The uniqueness is the driver of the car died, but his passenger survived, physically with no or minimal injuries. I’ve always wondered how she worked through that when her husband, seated beside her, was with one one second and gone the next, like some kind of biblical prophecy.

Several years ago, we had our own several months of chaos. Each loss was unique of its own. My dad fell and broke his hip, followed by complications that took his life. The days before his passing were almost surreal. Imagine witnessing someone whose vision is already in another world, tracking someone you cannot see, to the point you can almost hear what he sees.

My daughter was different. Her life was snatched from her at a moment none of us expected. She went on one of very few motorcycle rides and never came back. The driver lost control. Sometimes the call in the middle of the night is real, not hypothetical. This one started with her friends who knew about the accident.

My grandmother was different. In her mid-80s having dealt with cancer, we made the drive anticipating to be there before the end, and we were, and at the end. My wife and I walked through the room just as she drew her last breath.

In the quiet moments, I’ve asked the “Why” question, why me as well as why them. Sometimes I hear the question/answer of “If not you, then who”? Selfishly, I could say anyone but me. But if it is a human conversation, it means cursing someone with the journey I refuse. Who would you want to have watch a parent see heaven so clearly he, or she, would fight you if doctors tried to save him? Who would you want to lose their only child, regardless the reason?

In the course of things I’ve recalled how in the Bible faith, hope and love are closely connected. Faith and hope are close cousins. It doesn’t take a theologian to see that. If you don’t have faith in someone, it is hard to put your hope in that person, and the more faith and hope are proven, the more love is sustained.

Part of the process is to acknowledge the journey is not to be walked alone. There are times a survivor’s emotions are too raw to do much more than cry.

Having someone to listen is priceless; listen to pointless topics and to recollections of past relationships where the love still abounds.

The grieving survivor isn’t someone to be avoided, but one to approach gently, allow yourself to hear their story.

The Sidney community is blessed to have groups like Compassionate Friends. Compassionate Friends is a group of parents who have faced the loss of a son or daughter. Cliches are left at the door.

Each person present understands the heartache and struggle. Sometimes we talk about our families, and other times about farming, the latest creative dinner or whatever.

It is staying connected as we move forward; not over it, through it.


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