The past few days have been so painful for many families in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and British Colombia as 17 loved ones were lost in a tragic helicopter crash last Thursday. The words of the uncle of one of the victims:
"So many hearts have been broken by this event that it is difficult for us to fathom the amount of pain and suffering being felt by so many good people," he said. "We are praying for all the families involved."
My church's Staff Associate forwarded the following statement from the United Church of Canada. Rev Giuliano's thoughtful and heartfelt expression of caring, and his reminder of hope and love and light, moves me to tears:
Toronto: In a statement released today, The United Church of Canada shared the text of a letter written by the church's Moderator, the Right Rev. David Giuliano, expressing the church's condolences to the family, friends, and communities of everyone affected by last week's helicopter crash off the coast of Newfoundland.
The letter reads as follows:
Words alone cannot heal the profound grief you must be feeling. However, it may be some comfort to know that across the country many are holding you in love. Hearts are reaching out to you in this great shock and sadness. Many Canadians are whispering prayers for St. John's, for small communities across Newfoundland, and for the dear souls who have been lost at sea.
Please accept my sincere personal sympathies. With each radio broadcast, I too am holding you in prayer. And on behalf of The United Church of Canada, please accept the deepest sympathies of our members across the land. We know that in Newfoundland and Labrador there are many aching hearts. We also remember that there are families and friends weeping in Nova Scotia and British Columbia. And we pray for the healing of Robert Decker, the lone survivor of the crash. We remember the men and women who remain on the offshore platforms away from loved ones. And we are grateful for the efforts of the search and rescue and recovery crews who serve as witnesses to this tragedy.
The sudden loss of 17 family members, friends, neighbours, and co-workers is devastating. The closeness among Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans means that everyone deeply shares this loss. That closeness also means that you will draw together and support those who are most personally affected.
Above all, I want to offer condolences to family members and close friends, especially the children, who will feel this loss most poignantly for months and years to come. Long after this story has faded from the news, they will be finding their way in the "valley of shadows." Let us commit ourselves to be with them, so that not a single spirit is broken by this tragedy.
As spring - and for Christians, Easter - approaches, may you experience the growing light and the re-emergence of life in spite of these difficult days of winter. As the Gospel of John puts it, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it" (1:5). May there be many kind souls among you who stand like lighthouses of hope, defying the darkness and helping you to find your way home.
Even as I write this entry, CBC's The National (evening news program) is speaking of this tragedy. The images of flowers hooked into the mesh fence around the airport are poignant, as are the words of the people offering prayer and sympathy. One woman said: "You feel like your hands are tied, because there's just no words to express..." It really is hard to find words to express the deep sympathy I feel, but I humbly add my prayers and condolences to those so eloquently expressed by Rev Giuliano above. I also hold in prayer the survivors and families who lost loved ones in the bus crash in Mexico today. May all find peace, and comfort to carry them through this time of grieving.