Grieving the Loss of Marines
by Seanan Holland
Dear friends and family,
This week we grieve the loss of Marines.
Grief continues, but it feels as if we do not have much time to grieve. There is a war. We have a mission. But war and missions are carried out by people. And people grieve. We are sad. We are perhaps many more things besides sad.
Thus far we have been lucky…or blessed…or lucky and blessed. Bullets and explosions have missed their mark. We stood wondering: where is God in this? And now, explosions have found their mark. We stand wondering: where is God in this? Explosions in this war are not random. They are measured and set carefully against the human spirit. However, it is war, so history suggests unconvincingly that it is not personal.
Out here, we grieve. We work in a place where danger is an expected part of the landscape.
Back home, families and friends grieve. For most, their familiar landscape is different than ours. Out here, the news is sad, but it is perhaps less of a shock. For most of us out here, it will take some time before all of the personal stories unfold and we realize the content of dreams now broken and the nuances of personality and expression that make each person and his relationships unique, special, dear. But back home the fabric of their being does not have to unfold to be known. By those closest to our fallen, the fabric of their being was known well, and the shock of instant unraveling cannot be tempered by slowness.
The talk before and after memorial services turns from downright bawdy to profoundly deep from one sentence to the next – no transitions. We acknowledge that words are not adequate. I try to explain that our presence and participation in the memorial service is sacred, even without words. Placing the rifle, the helmet, the boots, and draping the dog tags are all sacred. The war cry of unspecified emotions is sacred. I try to explain that just as it is a warrior’s responsibility to carry the dead from the field of battle, it is also a warrior’s responsibility to carry the sacred story of the deceased.
Before the mind begins to reach for words and patterns with which to make sentences it knows, in a way without language, the fullness of things like pain, longing, sorrow. I reach from thought to thought, looking for the one which might activate some degree of empathy with the families. I can know how it is in my own being, but not theirs. My thoughts and prayers go out to them. I pray that some blessing would be bestowed upon them in the midst of grief, but anything I might ask on their behalf seems small beside the loss. Still I pray for blessings on the loved ones of our fallen Marines.
Lt. Seanan Holland is a Unitarian Universalist military chaplain stationed in Afghanistan. He has served as an intern with the CLF.
Disclaimer: All entries to CLF/Quest Military Ministries page reflect the personal views of the contributor. The views expressed here are in no way to be construed as an individual or individuals speaking in their official capacities for the agencies, departments, or service branches they serve in. This is not an official publication of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, any government agency, or any other organization.