The sanctuary was packed. Everyone there had a story about Richard. There was no denying his impact on the lives of many. Richard had come from a well-known family in the city and had deep roots in the community. He was talented, charming, witty, and expressive. Hundreds had come for his memorial service. Beauty was laced throughout the service as Richard’s friends offered musical selections or moving testimonies in his honor. I wondered what his wife, Annette, was going to say.
About a year before Richard died it was revealed that he had had a long standing affair. For several years Richard was engaged in an adulterous relationship with one of Annette’s closest friends. The revelation broke the marriage and devastated their adult children. During the last several months of Richard’s life he struggled with a terminal illness and with estrangement from his family. Richard died before any deep and meaningful reconciliation with his family could come to fruition.
At the memorial, not a soul mentioned the betrayal of his marital vows. The ancient saying, “Don’t speak ill of the dead” was in full effect throughout the ceremony. This remained true until Annette rose to speak.
To be honest, I don’t remember exactly what she said. I do remember though, that Annette did not hide the truth. She spoke about her love for her late husband and about the wonderful gifts they shared. She spoke about the crushing blow of his infidelity. She spoke honestly about the struggle of compounded grief and the strange mix of fury and sadness that accompanied her during the last year of his life. Annette talked about the uncertainty ahead for herself and her children. Yet in that uncertainty she knew that she needed to be honest and that she was grateful for a community that allowed her to be honest.
After the memorial Annette shared how sharing truthfully was a step toward healing. She could not accept what was good and valid and true about him if she didn’t acknowledge the brokenness. She could not grieve him unless she named how she actually lost him before his death. She could not look for where God was in this if she wasn’t honest about what “this” is.
Healing still seemed like a long ways off but, if truth is what sets us free then, Annette demonstrated that honesty is the path to healing.