The Common Good

Jim Wallis: Thanksgiving for Thoughtful Readers

Jim WallisAt the beginning of the Thanksgiving weekend, I put the eulogy that I gave at my father's recent memorial service up on the blog. It seemed fitting, though personal, as my remembrances of him were filling my heart and mind as I reflected on what I was most thankful for. All weekend, I received very personal and, for me, very moving responses to my Dad's eulogy from many readers - almost 100. Let me just say how much those responses have meant to me and have "ministered" to me over these last few days. And I have passed them on to all my siblings and the many grandchildren. So from me and all of us, thank you very much. I've picked out just a few below to share with our readers. The complete comments still appear after the column under "comments." There is much wisdom here along with love and sympathy.

Dear Jim, thank you so much for sharing your heart with all of us. St. John Chrysostom (347-381 A.D.) once wrote: "Those whom we have loved and lost are no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are." The Communion of Saints is a beautiful reality. May you and your dear ones experience the comfort of your father's ongoing love and care!

What a wonderful and moving testimony to Jim Wallis, Sr. You never get over the death of a loved one - you learn to live with it and incorporate into the fabric of life - which it really is. You dad will continue to live in you, Jim Jr., and the millions of us whom you have touched with your ministry.

As I Hospice Chaplain, we deal with grief a lot. I came across "An Affirmation for Those Who Have Lost," by James E. Miller: "I believe there is no denying it; it hurts to lose. It hurts to lose a cherished relationship with another, or a significant part of one's self. It can hurt to lose that which has united one with the past or that which has beckoned one into the future. It is painful to feel diminished or abandoned, to be left behind of left alone. Yet, I believe there is more to losing than just the hurt and the pain. For there are other experiences that loss can call forth. I believe that courage often appears, however quietly it is expressed, however easily it goes unnoticed by others: the courage to be strong enough to surrender, the fortitude to be firm enough to be flexible. I believe a time of loss can be a time of learning unlike any other, and that it can teach some of life's most valuable lessons. In the act of losing there is something to be found. In the act of letting go, there is something to be grasped. In the act of saying 'Goodbye' there is a hello to be heard. For I believe living with loss is about beginnings as well as endings. And grieving is a matter of life more than death. And growing is a matter of mind and heart and soul more than of time. Finally, I believe in the promising paradoxes of loss. In the midst of darkness, there can be great light; at tbe bottom of despair, there can appear a great hope; and deep within loneliness, there can dwell a great love. I believe these things because others have shown the way - others who lost and have then found new meaning. So I know I am not alone: I am accompanied, day after day, night after day."

My heart and blessings go with you. As one who provided in-home hospice for my mother and held her as she 'went home', I know the sadness and joy that goes with saying "see you later" to a dear loved one. Also, as an experienced psychotherapist who has significant expertise in the area of death, your comment that "I'm not doing well" followed by your assertion to grieve him well, tells me you are doing very well in the way we all should.

Jim, your honesty about your feelings concerning your father has hit a chord amongst many of your readers, including myself. My dad, a father and friend I miss terribly, passed away six years ago. He also had an impact on many people and that impact is what makes it a little easier to handle those awful waves that still come from nowhere. Sometimes those waves will come at you with sudden ferocity in public or in private places. To grieve well is indeed wise and healing. Thank for opening yourself up to so many of us at such a vulnerable time in your life.

On Thanksgiving, I thank God for your dad. He is so inspiring to me. God bless you, comfort you, and continue to inspire your work.

I read your article on Thanksgiving Day as I spent time with my parents and one set of siblings. Thanks for reminding me to appreciate my family, and for the story of what kind of family I can aspire to have one day.

I've just reading your beautiful eulogy to your father and want to send my condolences to you and your family. I have been moved to tears reading about your father's life - I've longed to know a mentor like him all my life and had begun to believe that Christians like him didn't exist. It's so heartening to hear thay they do - your father, through his death, is inspiring me to aim higher in how I live my life and how I relate to others around me. What a wonderful legacy. May you and all your family know the Lord's peace and presence as you take the time to grieve him well.

What an inspiration to read your description of your father's life! His legacy lives on to bless even strangers through your words and life.

Dear Jim, I know you through reading Sojourners and God's Politics, and now can discern where some of your faith and faithfulness come from. Your tribute to your father was an inspiration, and will influence all who read it to be drawn to Our Lord and Savior!

Thank you for "sharing" your father with us, your readers. Even in his death, his faith continues to work and has touched me.

What a man! What a life! What a legacy! Thank you for pemitting us, in ways, to partake of that legacy!

God bless you for the beautiful tribute to your father. I have tears in my eyes as I reflect on what you have written. Though I don't know you or your father, somehow you have touched a cord and I am in awe of his life and his example. I have never been this touched, inspired, and saddened over the death of someone I never knew. I also read "The Rubble of War" and cannot imagine what horrors he has seen in his life. The image of the 5 year old girl walking out of the lifeless rubble is haunting and I will always carry it with me when I explain to others how tragic and awful war is and how all of humanity suffers because of it. God bless you and your family. May we all fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.

Jim, I'm so sorry to hear of Uncle Jim's passing. He was such a sweet and dear man. He had the very unusual talent to maintain a great sense of humor without a hint of mean-spiritedness. I'll always remember that, despite the inumerable social and spiritual demands of his schedule, he never seemed too busy to have a very in-depth conversation with a child. No matter how silly the topic seemed to be, he listened intently and was completely engaged. I try to adhere to this example when I'm feeling frazzled and my daughter seeks my attention. The love he and Auntie Phyl shared throughout their lives is the relationship I try to emulate with my husband. Thanks for sharing the eulogy with us.

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