What Good is Grief?
I got some bad news today. An older friend has cancer and it’s serious. I don’t know the prognosis but at first glance it doesn’t look good. Prayer is just about the only thing I can do because I am helpless and useless otherwise. So prayer it is. I am already anticipating with tears that someday my friend won’t be here in physical form.
There is another family who has already faced unimaginable grief. My old friend and former babysitter, Sarah Zollner Case’s sweet one-year-old son Otis died in January. By “chance” (I truly believe that it was the work of the Holy Spirit) I ran into Sarah while we were on a family vacation at the coast at the end of December. It had been at least five years since we had seen each other and I had the honor and privilege to meet both of her children. Otis was as cute as a button and so very full of life. It was clear why he had the nickname “Otis the POTUS.”
A mere three weeks later, I was stunned when I read Sarah’s heartbreaking Facebook post that Otis had suffered a seizure and died. What? How could that possibly be? I attended his memorial service – more for me than anything else. It was beautiful and hard to bear.
The story of Otis might have ended there. Oh sure, Sarah and her husband would mourn every day for the rest of their lives; that was to be expected. But the trick is – as it is for many of us – how can you turn crippling grief into something positive?
Enter “For the Love of Otis.” In dreaded anticipation of Mother’s Day and Otis’ second birthday, Sarah decided that she would make a simple suggestion to all her Facebook friends: During May 1st-8th would people perform random acts of kindness and simply add the hashtag #fortheloveofotis to signify their inspiration?
A movement was born. There were 10,000 shares of the post in the first couple of days alone. It’s gone national and international. And it’s no longer just for one week. The #fortheloveofotis Facebook page is filled with dozens and dozens of inspiring stories of kindness and goodness. Flowers here. An extra large tip there. Books purchased for unsuspecting customers. Donations made. Library fines paid for strangers. Zoo tickets for the people behind in line. The list goes on and on. As Sarah likes to say, it’s a “love revolution.”
The state newspaper, The Oregonian, picked up her story:
"None of this gives us Otis back," Case said. "But this has been wonderful to see these random acts of kindness. I got a card from a woman who said their family was given $200 so their son, who has diabetes, could get an insulin pump."
What she wants to say next, she said, might make her sound weird.
"I feel proud of my son," she said.
Not everyone can do what Sarah has done. But her story gives hope that through the worst experience of our lives good can come. On the #fortheloveotis Facebook someone quoted St. Augustine:
“Love has hands to help others.
It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has ears to hear the sights and sorrows of men.
This is what love looks like.”
Though it may never be understandable, something good and wonderful can come out of unimaginable sorrow. A life cut short that inspires other to be better than they ever thought they could be – that too is what love looks like. #fortheloveofotis.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2.5 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She is planning her next random act of kindness. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation; she is available to consult with churches in Oregon and Idaho. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.