When in Pain, Do the Next Thing

7 December 2011 One Comment

(What follows is a continuing reflection on the deaths of Jamie and Pamela Pierre, as in previous postings.)

The room is maybe five feet by ten feet, an enclosed porch actually. It was Pamela’s inner sanctum (for better and worse). It has a couple of chairs, a computer on a tiny desk, books stuffed high and low, and tall piles of magazines, clippings, and printouts from online articles of all kinds. It’s where she went to think and search and smoke and read and think some more and smoke some more. It was also her counseling office (by phone and internet) and prayer closet. So it is fitting that Gerard and I, and then Jim, sit there smoking and talking, me on my black pipe with the Scottish tobacco.

We talk mostly about random things, circling back to brief exchanges about Jamie and Pamela. We laugh a little. We are quiet at times. We don’t have to talk about death to know it is what has brought us to this place—this physical place and this emotional and spiritual place. The death of people we love and the pain of those who have been (can we almost say had the misfortune to be?) left behind.

I am sitting by one of the tall stacks of photocopies from the internet. On top of the stack is an article (post) titled, “When You Aren’t Sure What to Do Next” (Jon Bloom, http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/when-you-arent-sure-what-to-do-next). It was posted and printed out on November 25, 2011, twelve days after Jamie’s death, and 6 days before Pamela’s. I think it is safe to say it is one of the things she was reading—and thinking about—in her last days.

The piece reflects on the story in John 21 of the disciples going fishing after the crucifixion and resurrection. They have been crushed by the crucifixion but given eternal hope by the resurrection. But they do not know what to do. Jesus has been telling them what to do (or trying) for three years or so. Now they seem to be on their own. How do you go back to everyday life after you’ve be part of the central event of human history?

They don’t know what to do, so they do what they had always done before. They go fishing (I’m paraphrasing Jon Bloom here). They fish all night. Useless. What a waste of time. No fish. Then Jesus shows up on the shore. “Throw your nets on the other side.” They had already fished both sides and multiple places. Surely also useless. But they do it anyway, sensing that maybe this fellow on the shore is more than a passing stranger. Full nets.

I’m glad Pamela was reading this in her last days. She had experienced a form of crucifixion in the death of Jamie. She had, like the disciples, the hope of the resurrection, both for Jamie and herself and those of us left behind with her. Now she was waiting, not knowing, really, what the next thing would be. In pain, but in hope. Both real. She did not know that the next thing for her would be to join Jamie in death (though she talked about death a lot in those days between Jamie’s and her own).

Now the rest of us are in the same place—a kind of crucifixion mixed with a hope. But not knowing exactly what to do, for those suffering the most in this or for ourselves. We also are waiting, to see what life now holds. We also don’t quite know what to do next. Bloom quotes Elizabeth Elliot’s advice in these situations: “do the next thing.” That sounds right. The “next thing” these last few days has meant opening the door when friends knock, arranging things with the funeral home, picking up brothers and family at the airport, planning a dual memorial service for Jamie and Pamela . . . smoking in Pamela’s sanctuary.

Our pain is real. So is our hope—the hope that after the long night of meaningless fishing, eventually, at the time we really need to know, Jesus will be there to tell us where to cast our nets now. Why do we believe this? Our story tells us so.

Daniel Taylor


One Comment »

  • Jonathan Falk said:

    I wish I could enjoy a pipe with you in the sanctuary. May God grant you His grace as you minister to your family and words of comfort at the memorial service. Be assured of our prayers for all of you.

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