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Carrying Burdens
Photo: Joe Klune
They have been lying at the bottom of a box for two years—dozens of sympathy cards I received after my brother died. I read and appreciated each one as they arrived in the mail. But after the funeral, it was just too painful to see them lying around. So I saved them, knowing that I would want to read them again someday.

That someday came yesterday. As I reread each card these words came to mind, “Carry each other’s burdens…" (Galatians 6:2). I think most of us want to do this. We want to help lift the emotional load of another’s burden. Yet too often we don’t because we’re unsure about how to do it. For instance, we may want to send a sympathy card, yet don’t know what to say—so we say nothing by not sending.

As I read through my cards, I realized that what most people wrote was simple, caring, and loving. The cards were examples of different ways to “carry” each other’s burdens.

Sympathy Cards

Sympathy cards can acknowledge the pain. One friend wrote, “My heart is saddened by the news about Dan.” Another said, “Nancy, the pain you feel must be unbearable. My heart is with you!!”

Sympathy cards can express the seeming senselessness of it all. I appreciated this written comment from one of my in-laws, “There is no use saying some pious rubbish. Life is painful enough. God be with you.”

Sympathy cards can express love towards the one who died. It made me both happy and proud when one friend wrote, “It was our privilege to know Dan through the years. He put up a good fight.” And this one, “Your brother was a man of God—a good example of giving his life to many others.” Also, “When you remember all the times that he made your family and the world a better place, you can find joy through your tears.”

Sympathy cards can use few words—and sometimes fewer are better. Some wrote simple sentences like, “You all are in our prayers,” or “My heart aches for you,” and “I can only say, hold on.”

Sympathy cards can be accompanied by flowers, food, or even money to help with expenses. A colleague of mine sent this message with a flowering plant: “I just heard about your brother’s passing. I wanted to run and find you and give you a big hug. I thought maybe you would like to plant this flower and be reminded of your love for your brother each year when you see it bloom.”

And most importantly, sympathy cards can point to our only hope. Several friends did this by writing, “The resurrection morning can’t come soon enough!” and my favorite, “Those who love the Lord never say goodbye for the last time.”

The next time you hear that someone has died, don’t be afraid to send a card. Don’t be afraid to help carry their burden.

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines
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