What was it like to receive tragic news by telegram? Over the past six days, I’ve been told that someone died over the phone (a 19th century means of communication), updated on my father’s possible chemotheraphy treatment options via email, and heard similar concerns from my parishioners through electonrically circulated lists. What would it have been like to receive one of those tiny pieces of paper from Western Union? What was the emotional impact of a telegram?
Perhaps I’m wrong; grief doesn’t appear as a neat and tidy gift. It doesn’t arrive in a box, waiting for the right time and place to open. Sometimes, grief is a folded piece of paper. Grief lands in your life like an awkward glance you were never meant to see but can’t unsee. Grief is two-dimensional, flat, and waits for a three-dimensional existence. It need not be a response to death. Grief arrives with spiritual indifference. Grief cares not about what God we worship or the creed we confess. Like the self it inhabits, it wants to be acknowledged as real, valued, and worthy of love.