English poet Robert Southey wrote, “The loss of a friend is like that of a limb; time may heal the anguish of the wound, but the loss cannot be repaired.”
The film Courageous uses an adaptation of this quote as the pastor in the movie says to a grieving father, “I’ve heard it said that losing a loved one is like losing a limb. Eventually it heals, but you’ll never be the same.”
How intimately I can relate to that sentiment. Eight months ago, I lost a limb of my own. That limb was my mother.
In the Lord’s grace, I have yet to lose an actual, physical arm or leg. My only experience in this regard has been related to a shoulder injury. My doctor told me that the only way for it to heal would be for me to not use my right arm. Little did he know just how much a stay-at-home mother of three is in need of her right arm!
I begrudgingly succumbed to the doctor’s orders, but I felt like I couldn’t do anything! I should emphasize that I am right-handed, and my left hand is virtually good for nothing. With my right arm in a sling, I couldn’t hang the laundry on the line. It was a joke to even think about trying to fold the clean clothes.
The simple job of washing my hair became a monumental task. The daily routine of getting dressed required more stamina than I could muster up. Attempting to turn the pages of a book while reading for my kids took considerable planning.
Without the use of just one of my four limbs, I felt a tremendous disadvantage. If I had remained in that condition for an extended amount of time, I’m sure I would’ve found small ways to adapt. But I was not the same.
Thankfully, in the Lord’s grace, He provided other arms for me. Smaller arms, but willing arms, eager to help and serve. My three children were an incredible blessing during my temporary handicap. They took great delight in helping me cook, cleaning the house, even surprising me by making my bed. When their arms were insufficient for certain tasks, my husband willingly stepped in by going to the grocery store, washing dishes and carving chicken.
Even though I didn’t have the use of my right arm for a time, the Lord filled that gap. No, I was not the same, and no, my kids couldn’t meet all of my needs. Even the things they could help with were not done exactly the way I would’ve done them. But they were an undeniable blessing nonetheless.
In a similar way, ever since my mother’s death, I have felt as though a limb is missing. There are many things I can no longer do. Yet the Lord has brought people along to step into that gap — not to fill it completely, but to make the open space seem a little less wide and daunting. People like surrogate grandmas to come to my kids’ art exhibitions. A gem of a mother-in-law who is sympathetic to my healing wound. Friends of my mom’s who make a point to keep in touch and check in on me, just because they care.
As the body of Christ, one of the privileges we enjoy is to be a blessing to others. As we walk this journey called life, many will cross our paths who have lost limbs of their own. Perhaps it is a miscarriage, or a divorce.
We might find others in life who are missing the same limb that we are missing, or who have recently experienced a similar amputation. It is at times like these that we can employ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 and comfort those with the comfort that we ourselves have received from God.
At other times, we might find someone who is in need of a limb that we still have functioning. In those instances, we can take advantage of the opportunity to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We can serve as their crutches or their wheelchair for a time.
Though “the loss cannot be repaired,” as Robert Southey so aptly observed, we can do much as sisters in Christ to carry one another’s burdens. With the help of God, we can be effective prosthetic arms and legs to support those who have suffered loss.