Sometimes I get a difficult email or phone call. The bride, or groom lets me know the wedding is off, has been cancelled, and won’t be happening at all.  I can tell what a difficult phone call or email that is to make. I don’t often hear the details of what happened, or why, but the pain is so evident.

I had a phone call like that this morning, and I have been sitting with it for a few hours. When we hear of another person’s heartache, It’s so tempting to want to say something to alleviate their distress. The phrases jump to mind: don’t worry, it’ll all work out. It’s probably for the best. Things happen for a reason. Better to find out now. All those phrases we want to say to others when life gets difficult. That’s our nature, isn’t it? We are desperate to take away suffering. We want to make it better.

I work hard at biting my tongue against those conditioned phrases, but finding the right words is not easy. This poem, by Jan Richardson has helped me this morning, to respond with love. To bear witness to another person’s pain, and not try to fix it, or minimize it, or to forget about it.


There is no remedy for love but to love more.
– Henry David Thoreau

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still

as if it trusts
that its own stubborn
and persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us