By Debbie Olujobi
Last month I started a trilogy of columns about paradise and I should have concluded last week but the tragic event of the deadly plane crash redirected my thoughts. I initially was not going to write anything this week but as my deadline draws closer I am drawn to offer a few words of comfort to all those directly or indirectly affected by tragedy. What does one say to comfort anyone when the unthinkable happens? Of what comfort are words and even material things in the middle of a calamity? No sane person can dismiss the tragedy of the living dying while trying to bury the dead!!! What is bad, is just bad and bad barely describes it even! Many reactions trailed the crash and a lot of us drew conclusions that span the realm of the logical, critical and supernatural. I have a few theories bordering on all three aspects but I can’t prove the logical. And like everyone else, I can only make assumptions. I can’t confirm the critical as there is always general outrage anytime a plane crashes. All religious and supernatural explanations have no basis in reality and our faith is best directed towards praying for those who mourn.
So what does one say or do at a time like this? Its one thing to propound crazy theories when musing but what does one actually say when you come face to face with those who have a lead role in a real life tragedy? Being human, those who mourn have their own theories! Theirs come from a place of pain, sometimes rage at unexpected and unthinkable loss! It would be easy to join in and add flames to a smouldering furnace but that would not be wisdom.
May I suggest in my humble opinion that silence is the best gift when faced with an eruption of pain, heartbreak and even anger? Depending on the intimacy of the relationship, anyone in pain needs to talk to someone; they just need to let off steam; they need to cry, to rage, to scream, they need someone or many people to be there, to listen, to comfort. Most of us lose our power in times of pain; we lose control of our senses and we say and do things we regret; things we can’t take back. It is unfortunate that some of our close friends and family who should help us control our words and deeds often compound our situation by adding more drama. The sad truth is that words never lose their power, even when they are uttered in times of grief or severe provocation. At a time like this, the bereaved and those around them should set a seal on their lips and mind their actions; that is wisdom.
There is a saying that there is nothing new under the sun and for every tragedy, there are countless greater tragedies! Pain however can’t be classified or eulogised with fancy words and one thing I find very unbecoming is the comparison of tragedies. It would be better to stay away than to visit someone who is grieving and start telling them about someone who has a bigger problem than they do. At the point in people’s lives when their hearts are broken in grief, no pain is greater than what they feel; belittling their feelings by comparison is at best cruel and at worst thoughtless! Last year on the 3rd of June (2012), a friend of mine died in the Dana plane crash, over 150 people lost their lives and there were countless stories of the families that died. I was most touched by that of the Anyene family, an entire family of six along with three in-laws who all perished on their way to a wedding. If one were to compare tragedies, theirs would have been the worst but it would not have lessened the pain to compare that loss to those who lost one friend or family member. I didn’t know the family but I remember them in my prayers as I remember my friend Livi Ajuonoma. At a time like this, a life lost, is a loss that needs to be acknowledged, a pain that needs to respected!
When words of comfort feel inadequate, its time to turn to The Lord and receive succour and strength. The most inadequate comfort is the only one that is true; the comfort of time! Time will eventually heal wounds, the pain will go dull and not be so sharp. We will remember those we mourn with tears today with laughter and eventually give God thanks that we had the privilege of knowing them albeit for a season. At a time like this I pray for the Okusanya and MIC family, The Falae and Alabi families and all the other families who grieve for comfort that only The Lord can give. I end with a song borne of tragedy but filled with encouragement. It was written by Horatio Spafford, a man who was no stranger to grief; at a time when lesser men would have been swallowed up by pain, he wrote what is perhaps the most appropriate hymn for encouragement in times of sorrow.
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.