McKenzie Brown- Guest columnist
At first glance, the concept of loss seems easy to quantify. The Nepali members of our Wesleyan family have had a lot to quantify as of late.
As of April 29, more than 4,800 people are dead and more than 9,200 people are injured after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit near the Nepali capital of Kathmandu on April 25, according to CNN. An estimated eight million people have been affected, with one million children in need of urgent care.
If these numbers are not already unfathomable, consider the fact that they will have increased between the composition of this article and the moment you reach the period at the end of this sentence. Our sisters and brothers have watched their country suffer from 8,251 miles away and will return to a nation that has experienced a fundamental shift since they left. It isn’t difficult to fully understand what they’re feeling. It’s impossible.
On the evening of April 28, a candlelight vigil was held as a means of consolation and solidarity with the people of Nepal. This was an interreligious event: teachings were offered from a plurality of religious beliefs in an attempt to clear a place in the thick of this tragedy for hope to dwell for however long it is able. Whatever spirit that unites humanity through commonality despite our inclination toward division was tangible and acutely poignant.
The religious language of grief was the topic for my University College Day presentation this year. The research consisted of dissecting the logic of clichéd and theologically haphazard statements individuals often use to comfort others.
Phrases such as “this is the will of God,” “they’re in a better place now,” and “I know exactly how you feel” appear to be harmless, but collapse under the slightest weight of critical reasoning. That kind of frailty can be dangerous. These statements assume that God willed beings created with the love of life to die, invalidate the present experience of the grieving or assert the impossible — that we can know exactly how another person feels.
However, although these statements are imperfect, the compassion that compels people to utter them is perfect and comes to fruition in a simplistic phrase that is simultaneously one of the most powerful sentiments we can verbally express: I love you.
The phrase derives its power from our ability to control its emotional weight through the intentionality of our presence when we say it. One might say “I love you” as a passive statement of gratitude to the friend who brought you Whataburger during a study break. The very next day that same person could say “I love you,” but express the phrase in such a way that the recipient knows they occupy a sacred space in their heart. The difference between the two is that the phrase in the first usage is a means to an end, whereas it was the whole point of the second example.
Texas Wesleyan makes concrete the notion that not all family is biological. Nepali, English, American, Saudi Arabian, German, French, Egyptian – no matter what nationality, we are all invested in each other in some shape or form. During this time of adversity, we owe our hurting family the diligence of intentionality. So to those who feel lost in the darkness of this most recent tragedy, know this: you are loved. You occupy a sacred place in all of our hearts, and with the gifts of our time, efforts and love, we hope that you will never feel truly lost.