When Words Fail Anyways: The Language of Pain, Suffering and Healing

Recently I had the opportunity to take a faith tour through Turkey. Many great stories to share. I’ll just pick one.

First thing you have to know is that Turks are extremely hospitable people. Their kindness and generosity knows no bounds. It is not uncommon to meet a Turk and find yourself staying in their home that evening. This actually happen to me on this trip!

Back to the story. I was walking with a friend down the streets of a small Turkish city. We came upon an old Turkish couple who spoke no English (and neither of us spoke Turkish). They invited us in for tea. The man was so feeble he did not take off his shoes when entering the home, a big no no in Turkey. Also his left hand and arm were covered and limp, indicating some kind of permanent disability. His wife did almost everything. He was very elderly, even having trouble remembering how to spell their names when I gave him a pen and paper. She wore a head covering, in traditional Turkish fashion.

In our over 30 minutes there, we had limited communication. We attempted to get the scoop on the pictures in the room, but I’m pretty sure I missed most everything, even though we went over it a couple times. It was extremely awkard and mostly silent. We spent a lot of time staring at each other.

I had learned the Turkish word for Father, Baba, and for some reason I shared with this couple (using hand signals) that my father had passed. I’m not sure why I did this. I didn’t tell anyone else that I met on the trip.

Then they showed me a picture of their young adult daughter and indicated that she had passed. I don’t know when. I don’t know how. But as we stared into one another’s eyes, we knew the pain and loss of a loved one and our hearts ached for one another. I put my hand to my heart to express my condolences.

Our inability to communicate mattered not in this moment. Words cannot express how it feels to lose someone you love anyways. It hurts. Life is forever changed.

I don’t know if it is possible to completely recover, but I think we both experienced a little healing that day.

At some point this man had been in Berlin for some reason, I believe in 1940. He had also been a Turkish soldier in Ankara, the big city. He had been a farmer in this small community for much longer though.

He attempted a political discussion, but it came and went quickly with us both agreeing that Turkey is “very good” and America is too.

When we left, I shook his hand. As we walked away, I prayed for continued healing for this couple, healing from the loss of their daughter and physical healing. I pray even now that they may feel the presence of Jesus, crying with them.

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