I don’t characteristically wear pink ties at funeral services. I realize there is nothing inherently wrong with wearing pink for such an occasion, but I tend to lean toward the darker colors. The most recent service I officiated at was much different. Last Saturday I was privileged to reflect on the life of little 2-year-old Anna. Pink was her favorite color… How could I not wear a pink tie?
Over a span of 32 years I have only officiated at a handful of funerals for small children. But, I remember every detail of each of them. How could I possibly forget?
The first one was for a 6-month old baby boy. We didn’t have children of our own at that point in life. The second one was for a little boy, who was a little older. We had two little ones in our house by then. Such crises do something to your heart. You are never quite the same. How could anyone walk away from such an experience unchanged?
I have also been exposed to criminal acts that have been done to children over the years. I was with an officer in 1990, when both of us discovered a 13-month-old child who was brutally murdered by his mother. I have done follow-up work with officers following equally heinous crimes to small children. How could my heart not be changed permanently after exposure to such unspeakable crimes?
I said something at Anna’s service that I have never said before. I encouraged friends of her parents and extended family to reach out them. Don’t ignore them. Show up! In specific terms, I said: Bring your heart and leave your mouth at home. When serving people in grief, people characteristically feel compelled to offer commentary of all kinds. When you start philosophizing about a child’s death, how can you possibly avoid putting your foot in your mouth?
I am a firm believer in the efficacy of nonverbal communication. Meaningful hugs speak volumes. A gentle touch speaks the language of the heart. Active listening is one of the most unused mediums of healing. When you are quick to listen and slow to speak, how can you not help but share a part of your heart?
Let’s share our hearts. And in the process, let’s leave our mouths at home. I am leaving my pink tie out in a prominent place. I need a tangible reminder that prompts me to keep on sharing my heart. How could I possibly in good conscience put that tie up?