advent journal: acquainted with grief


Today has been a sad day.


My dear friend, David Gentiles, died three years ago today. Three years later, this day lies between the anniversary of the death of my father-in-law, Reuben, who died a year ago last October and January, which will mark the first anniversary of Lola, our Schnauzer who died after fighting to so hard to stay and take care of us. However we might measure our days, this has been a season of grief at our house. Yet, even as I write that sentence, I am aware that, though this kind of grief is new to me, it is not new. it feels different, I suppose, because I am now better informed.


One of the phrases from scripture that has intrigued me since I was a boy comes from Isaiah 53: “he was acquainted with grief.” The verb paints an unusual picture of one who  knows grief well, not as a friend, yet with some familiarity. As we read the prophecies into the story of Jesus, we see the Man of Sorrows, somehow full of grace and love and joy that ran deeper than any of the darkness. I’ve got twenty years on him, as far as being on the planet, and I am just getting acquainted it seems. As I learn more about what it means to live with vacancies the shape of loved ones, the loss of the little ones and their teachers in Newtown remind me that my grief is fundamentally not about me, but about what it means to be human, to be connected, to be loved.


This life we live is about losing as much as anything else, and about what we do with those losses. As we grieve collectively as a nation, we do well to remember our brothers and sisters in Africa and Syria, in Palestine and Pakistan who see their children die everyday, not because we must somehow we must compare our sorrows but because now we know more about what it means to be human. We are better acquainted with grief.


I have no big point to make here other than tonight I miss my friend. I am grateful for his life and sad it was not longer. And my mind turns to music, such as this favorite hymn:


come ye disconsolate where’re ye languish

come to the mercy seat fervently kneel

here bring your wounded hearts here tell your anguish

earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal


One of the things Dave and I shared was an unabashed love of John Denver’s songs. I keep coming back to this one:


friend, I will remember you

think of you pray for you

and when another day is through

I’ll still be friends with you


To all who are acquainted with grief, I hope you find rest and peace.






  1. Perhaps Love is one of my favorite songs when I’m sad/grieving. It’s just tough. I hate the loss. I miss all I my loved ones and my beloved schnauzer Clara who died 10 years ago. Sometimes it feels like a betrayal to the the wonderful life I have today and how wealthy I am with healthy parents, kids, friends, etc. our sweet standard schnauzer that landed in our laps and captured our hearts. I try not to rob today with the sorrow of so many losses but sometimes it feels like a full on assault–like you just lost all of them yesterday. One thing I do know it does get easier but your heart is never the same again. I find myself very reluctant to meet knew people because I don’t want to care about one more person that I will lose eventually. I’m not a bitter or negative person. Just weary of sorrow and fear at times. I have such faith in God and have been lucky to catch glimpses of the incredible life will have with him but my human finite brain days I want them here NOW! Suffering or not. I want to touch them hug them kiss them, etc. very selfish I know. Pastor Kyle Childress told me one time when i feel so alone to rely on the faith of all who’ve come before us. Go back to the psalms, the old old hymns–Faith if our Fathers, amazing grace etc. God be with you during this season of loss for you amidst the joy iof the coming if the Christ child. Can’t wait to see you January. 9th my dear Milton. You’re in my prayers!!! Love, Laurie

  2. Milton, so often of late I find in your writing the healing touch of shared experience. I found this post just now, as I am struggling to find peace tonight, once again keeping vigil with one of my beloved pups – my Eli, my gorgeous, big-hearted, warm-coated, sweet-tempered not-even-8-year-old German Shepherd. He’s been struggling against a degenerative condition, and it’s time to let go and say goodbye. He’s my second dog this year, and in -between them has been my father. So many goodbyes, every where I look – I am brooding on these many losses, seeking some balm for this renewing grief, and finding at least some peace in knowing that these are shared experiences. Thank you for your words tonight; I am sharing them with my family, in hopes they will help us tomorrow.

  3. Sorry that you are sad today. Grief is so hard for live with. I pray that you find comfort in your present life and loves and know that we all feel with you and love you.

  4. Thank you for sharing this John Denver song, Milt. He was a favorite of mine when I was young and passionate, but I’d never heard this one. We have to work hard to stay with the joy this time of year, don’t we? My daughter and her family had landscaping done today. I loved watching the strong skillful men dig holes in the sticky hard Carolina clay and carefully put in a lovely tree. This life will last long after I’m gone, and I hope their beauty and shelter will come partly from my presence when their roots met the soil.

  5. January 2, 2013

    I happened on your site today – 2 months from the passing of my son Jeff. I put his name in place of “friend” in the song. I haven’t been able to sing since November 3, 2012 but tried to sing along for him.

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