August Chaplain's Reflections
By Capt. Benjamin McEntire, 169th Fighter Wing
/ Published August 10, 2015
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- "The Power of Love"
In May of this year, my family lost a dearly loved pet dog to a heart attack. Buster had been with us since he was a puppy, and by the time he died he was as much a part of the family as any of the rest of us. I and my parents all grieved after he died, and even though some time has passed we still miss him. Buster wasn't the first deeply loved pet I've lost, and I doubt he'll be the last. While losing pets and other well-loved family members over the years has always been painful, the experiences has transformed what I believe about love.
After the loss of a grandparent I started thinking about the grief we all feel when we lose someone we love, and I realized that one of the questions people tend not to ask is why we grieve the way we do in those situations. Have you ever asked why we experience grief at all? Why is it that when we love others, we grieve when we lose them? Couldn't we have been created to love others, even fearing to lose them, but not go through a painful and besetting process once they're gone?
As I got to thinking about that question, I came to believe that the reason we grieve is because love is supposed to last forever, and that grief is our natural response to an unnatural state. I believe that if loss was completely natural, we wouldn't suffer as we do when we experience it. Fearing the loss of a loved one might drive us to protect them, and even take risks to do so, but if loss is natural then grief as we experience it seems like a serious disadvantage, leading me to question whether we were created for loss. No doubt others have come up with other answers to the question, but for me that explanation works well with my worldview.
Another thing experiences of loss have done for me is that I have come to believe that we are created to love. There are things we want deeply we can live without, but loving, caring relationships are not one of them. Sometimes when we experience pain it's tempting to think that if we shut ourselves down and don't let ourselves love we won't feel it again. What I have learned from my experiences of loss is that cutting ourselves off from loving is like cutting ourselves off from eating or breathing--even if we could succeed we would deny an essential part of our created nature. Experiences involving pain and loss show us that we are resilient and able to love no matter how many times we go through them.
Look at the eldest amongst us. So very often they have lived through loss many times, yet those experiences haven't damped the warmth and affection they feel for those they love. In some cases they've come to love and care even more deeply. How many of us have seen it in our grandparents? We often take the things our grandparents and elders have lived through for granted, yet if we really think about them it should make us appreciate all the more the love they show us. For many of us, such people are models of resilience and love.
While all of us long for love and for meaningful relationships, finding and keeping them is not without challenges. For some of us, we have been hurt and we could use help recovering. For others, finding meaningful and life-giving relationships has been a challenge from the beginning. In both cases, a helping hand and a listening ear can be what is needed to help us move forward. If you are struggling with loss or are trying to find meaningful relationships, the 169th Fighter Wing Chaplain Corps and the Director of Psychological Health are here to provide you with confidential help and guidance. You can contact the Chaplain Corps at 647-8265 or through the Command Post. We are here to serve and would be delighted to help you on your path to life-giving relationships!