"My brother Jonathan, I’m filled with sadness because of you. You were very special to me..." 2 Samuel 1:26
My family recently experienced a devastating and unexpected loss of a 15 year old young man (my cousin). As you can imagine his parents, siblings, grandparents, and a host of friends and family were racked with sadness and shock. His name was Jonathan which means "Yahweh has given". As we struggled within the family with our all encompassing grief, there was an immediate and extraordinary outpouring of help, prayers, money, gifts, and pure love from strangers, acquaintances, friends and family alike.
What I found most uplifting through the entire ordeal was that time and time again the individuals in our family in the midst of such pain, found something to be thankful about. I have never been so proud to be a part of such a wonderful example of family faith in action. My cousin's mom happened to be out of town when he collapsed. I went to the emergency room only to be met by his dad with the sad news of his death. I couldn't understand why his mom and others kept thanking me for being there. I had done nothing. I was there and I was useless. But what she and others told me afterwards was that they were so "thankful" I was able to be there just to relay information, sorrowful though it was.
His dad had just been given the news and hugged me and said "thanks for coming". Jonathan collapsed in the middle of a Taekwondo class and the entire class expressed thanks to his dad for coming to grief counseling the following week and assuring them it wasn't their fault. During the time we planned the services, it felt like all I heard day in and day out was how thankful individuals were for the small and big gestures that were happening left and right.
His immediate family was thankful to the extended family that gave them space to grieve and hugs when needed. His immediate family was thankful for the multitude of meals that people just ordered, made, or dropped by. His immediate family was thankful for the donated services, money, days off, etc.. that helped them immensely as they dealt with such a loss.
And through all of this, I could not stop thinking about what Jonathan's name meant - "Yahweh has given". We spoke of the meaning of his name during the funeral services and how blessed we were to have had him in our lives. We talked about being "grateful" that God had "given" us him even if only for a short 15 years. And once again that core theme of gratitude resonated deeply within even through the tears.
Matthew 5:4 says, "Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted." I have always struggled to understand the "blessing" inherent in experiencing deep grief. But this experience that I never wanted to have and would never wish on anyone else has taught me differently. The blessing was in the love and support that was poured upon our family when we most needed it. And it was because of those blessings that everyone was so grateful to each other and to God. The pain of Jonathan's passing has not lessened. The gap of his presence is still mightily felt. The memories of his smile are still fresh and sadness still lingers. But I am thankful that as his name proclaimed, "God has given" us Jonathan for but a short time and even in my grief, I am grateful for that.