• A Tornado of Sorrow

    Posted on August 28th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Voices of Healing: African American Women of Faith

    Part IV: Elizabeth Keckley: A Tornado of Sorrow


    Note: Taken from Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith. For more information on this book, please visit: http://bit.ly/YmaM1


    Note: For Part I on Elizabeth Keckley, please visit my blog post at: http://bit.ly/FSNIt. For Part II, please visit: bit.ly/ENWjJ. For Part III, please visit: http://bit.ly/gI1H6


    A Tornado of Sorrow


    Just a few years after the death of young Willie Lincoln, at 11 o’clock at night, Elizabeth awoke to the news that Mr. Lincoln had been shot. In the confusion of the night, she finally learned that the President was dead. Her first thought was of Mrs. Lincoln.


    “I wanted to go to Mrs. Lincoln, as I pictured her wild with grief; but then I did not know where to find her. . .”[1]


    Mrs. Lincoln was overcome. Mrs. Secretary Wells asked Mrs. Lincoln who could comfort her. “Is there no one, Mrs. Lincoln, that you desire to have with you in this terrible affliction?”


    Mrs. Lincoln responded, “Yes, send for Elizabeth Keckley. I want her just as soon as she can be brought here.”[1]


    It’s Normal to Hurt


    Bringing her in, Mrs. Wells excused herself and Elizabeth was left alone with Mrs. Lincoln. “She was nearly exhausted with grief, and when she became a little quiet, I asked and received permission to go into the Guests’ Room, where the body of the President lay in state.”[1] 


    Returning to Mrs. Lincoln’s room, Elizabeth reports, “I found her in a paroxysm of grief. Robert was bending over his mother with tender affection, and little Tad was crouched at the foot of the bed with a world of agony in his young face. I shall never forget the scene—the wails of a broken heart, the unearthly shrieks, the terrible convulsions, the wild, tempestuous outbursts of grief from the soul.”[1]


    Shared Sorrow Is Endurable Sorrow


    How did Elizabeth respond? “I bathed Mrs. Lincoln’s head with cold water, and soothed the terrible tornado as best I could. Tad’s grief at his father’s death was as great as the grief of his mother, but her terrible outbursts awed the boy into silence.”


    In those days, of all people, a formerly enslaved black woman was the one human being on the face of the earth who could comfort the President’s widow. And how? With her empathy. With her silence. With her physical presence. With her loving companionship.


    Mrs. Lincoln’s Spiritual Friend


    “Every room in the White House was darkened, and every one spoke in subdued tones, and moved about with muffled tread. The very atmosphere breathed of the great sorrow which weighed heavily upon each heart. Mrs. Lincoln never left her room. . . She denied admittance to almost every one, and I was her only companion, except her children, in the days of her great sorrow.”


    Mrs. Lincoln’s testimony says it all. “Lizabeth, you are my best and kindest friend, and I love you as my best friend.”[1]


    The Rest of the Story


    For the rest of the story, please return to this blog for part five . . .


    Note: Readers can enjoy the empowering narratives of over two-dozen African American women (and scores of African American men) narrated in Kellemen and Edwards, Beyond the Suffering. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/XvsTu



  • Book Review: Dance in the Rain

    Posted on August 21st, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Dance in the Rain:

    His Joy Comes in the Mourning


    Book Review Details


    *Title:  Dance in the Rain

    *Author: Angela A. Dockter-Harris 

    *Publisher: Tate Publishing (2008)

    *Category: Christian Living, Grieving


    Reviewed By: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC, Author of Soul Physicians, Spiritual Friends, Beyond the Suffering, Sacred Friendships, and God’s Healing for Life’s Losses.


    Recommended: Dance in the Rain is a unique book that offers beneficial and practical biblical grief tools for healing and hope in Christ.


    Review: A Journal for Your Journey


    Angela Dockter-Harris has compiled a very practical and moving grief manual written from a Christian perspective. Rather than providing a theology of suffering, Harris offers a remarkable workbook for the person experiencing grief.


    Part One: Journaling


    Dance in the Rain is in two companion sections. Part one is simply and appropriately entitled “Journaling.” Three brief, focused chapters entail this section: “Remembering the Person I Love,” “This Gift I Leave You,” and “The Loss.” Harris introduces each chapter with four helpful overviews: what the chapter is about, what the reader can expect to find, to whom the chapter applies, and the goal of the chapter.


    In “Remembering the Person I Love,” Harris offers seventeen journaling suggestions for the loss of a parent, spouse, adult, child, grandparent, sibling, or friend. She then provides twenty-seven distinct journaling topics for the loss of an unborn child, infant, toddler, or young child. The chapter concludes with eleven journaling topics to compose a special tribute to the person who has passed away.


    Having just experienced the loss of my father-in-law within a week of reviewing these questions, I could easily apply them to his life and his death. The questions were moving, appropriate, and healing. For example, some of the tribute questions included, “The most important lesson I ever learned from the person I love is…” “What I most admired about this person is…” “The most precious gift I ever received from this person was…”


    The only “negative” in this section relates to the lack of space allotted for responses. A few brief lines would hardly allow someone to record “The funniest story I remember about this person…” I did not find any suggestion in the book recommending that the questions be typed out so that lengthier responses could be given. Perhaps even a supplemental e-document or e-book or CD could be included in future editions. I understand that the idea of the book is for it to be given as a gift—written in and completed—which is a beautiful thought. Perhaps I’m just too wordy!


    Chapter two, “This Gift I Leave You” is created uniquely for the person facing death. Dozens of thought-provoking questions lead the reader to opening up about his or her life to those who will be left behind. Harris shares sixty-one topics to probe and ponder, many with sub-topics. Taken together, this would be an amazing gift of healing—both for the dying person and for those left behind.


    The questions are candid, like, “I want to share with you my stages of emotions: When I was angry and why…” “Some things I have really struggled with in my life…” They are also moving, such as, “My life’s legacy. I want to be remembered for…” “My favorite memory of us…” They can also be used to pass on a legacy. “Things I hope you try/do before you die.” “Things I hope you never do, ever, never…” Such compiled responses would truly be an awesome gift.


    Topic sixty-one has many sub-points, all related to “Thoughts about my funeral.” So many people wait far too long (or never share/plan) to discuss their wishes for their funeral. Harris guides readers in how to map out one’s own funeral plans. Rather than macabre, her suggestions are touching, relevant, and practical.


    Even after all of these questions, Harris lists thirty-two additional topics to write about. They include such gems as, “My/our wedding day.” “Don’t be angry that I am gone.” “My advice on relationships.” The author then leaves ten blank, lined pages so that the book could be written in and given as a gift.


    Chapter three addresses, “The Loss.” This section helps the reader to move from shock and denial to candor. As the reader faces the reality of the loss, the healing process can begin. This section is brief—two pages and eight questions, which was a tad surprising after the depth of the preceding two chapters.


    Part Two: Bible Study User’s Guide


    Part two (“Bible Study User’s Guide”) is actually repeated twice. The first section is to be completed by the person grieving. The second section is to be completed by the person to whom the book is being left as a journal.


    The first chapter in this second section addresses “When a Loved One Isn’t Saved.” This is a common question that Christians have, and, unfortunately, one ignored or minimized all-too-often in Christian circles. Harris faces the issue, the pain, the confusion, and the potential guilt and shame, head on.


    Overall, her Bible study questions and Scriptures are theologically sound. However, readers, especially Reformed, Calvinistic readers, and/or all those who highlight the sovereign will of God, will likely take issue with some of Harris’ choice of words. “If your loved one died not knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, I want to assure you that He [God] did everything possible in the lifetime of your loved one to give them every opportunity to know Him” (p. 94). “God gives each and every one of us as many opportunities to know Him and to choose Him as He [God] can” (p 95).


    Obviously, the whole “God’s sovereignty/human responsibility debate” is age-old. And death-and-dying issues elevate the emotional heat in those discussions. I’m not suggesting that a work-book like this needed a theological tome on the topic. However, the aforementioned wording might appear to diminish the all-powerful, all-wise, sovereign work and will of God. This is something that I am confident the author never intended to convey.


    Harris includes additional Bible study chapters on “Anger,” “Sorrow,” and “Acceptance.” Each chapter provides verses to read and space to respond to pertinent questions. These chapters assist the reader to “work through” the stereotypical stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—all from a biblical perspective.


    A Very Valuable Resource Tool


    Dance in the Rain is a unique book that offers beneficial and practical biblical grief counseling tools. As a pastor-counselor-professor, and as an author of a forthcoming book on grief (God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting), I absolutely recommend this workbook. I see it as extremely valuable for parishioners, counselees, and spiritual friends. Frankly, every pastor and Christian counselor who deals with grief issues should have a dozen copies on hand.