Vinoth Ramachandra

Simply Coping as a Calling

Posted on: June 25, 2018

My wife, Karin, fell asleep in Christ in the early hours of 6th May. Her funeral, two days later, was a celebration of a life lived fully and sacrificially.

Large numbers of people from all walks of life – the very poor as well as the very rich, the highly educated as well as the uneducated- turned up at the funeral home as well as the Anglican Cathedral in Colombo where the funeral service was held. It was a testament to the impact she has had on so many in this country. Not to mention the steady flow of emails and cards she received from all over the world before her death, and I have been receiving since.

Friends in London arranged a Thanksgiving Service for Karin a month later, at the church where we were married nearly twenty years ago. I repeated the tribute-homily I gave at the funeral in Colombo. You can find the audio recording of the service at:

https://youtu.be/BwOS6hiBZ9M (My tribute can be found from 41:24- 53:40)

John Donne’s famous line “No man is an island” from “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is often quoted; but few go on to give the whole section in which that line occurs. Here is the fuller quote, well worth pondering:

“The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions…
when she buries a man, that action concerns me: all mankind is
of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is
not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language;
and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several
translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness,
some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every
translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves
again for that library where every book shall lie open to one
another…
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece
of the continent, a part of the main… any man’s
death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and
therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for
thee.”- John Donne (1572-1631), “For Whom the Bell Tolls”

A wise friend wrote me last week that “Honest grieving is your current vocation”. That relieves me from the false guilt of not being able to perform as before, whether in writing or public speaking.

I read a poem recently where the writer refers to being “ambushed by grief”. That is a metaphor which resonates with me. Just when I think I am coping well, I am blind-sided by a wave of memories that plunges me into a pit of loneliness. I know that many of you have been there yourselves and well understand what I am experiencing.

And in his book Lament for a Son, written thirty years ago, the philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote these words that I have treasured, long before my own personal experience of what he meant:

“I know now about helplessness-of what to do when there is nothing to do. I have learned coping. We live in a time and place where, over and over, when confronted with something unpleasant we pursue not coping but overcoming. Often we succeed. Most of humanity has not enjoyed and does not enjoy such luxury. Death shatters our illusion that we can make do without coping. When we have overcome absence with phone calls, winglessness with airplanes, summer heat with airconditioning- when we have overcome all these and much more besides, then there will abide two things with which we must cope: the evil in our hearts and death. There are those who vainly think that some technology will even enable us to overcome the former. Everyone knows that there is no technology for overcoming death. Death is left for God’s overcoming.”

12 Responses to "Simply Coping as a Calling"

Strong and deep words Vinoth regarding vocation and calling and ‘death is left for God’s overcoming’. John Donne’s word also touch the soul deeply and one can see the pages being translated and turning. I look forward hearing your words in London for Karin.

–I wrote this review is from: Midwife for Souls: Spiritual Care for the Dying (Paperback) by Kathy Kalina

Midwife for Souls touched my three brothers and I deeply during the final days of our father’s life. We were introduced to this book by a Hospice Chaplain who gave us permission to ask any questions that we wanted to about what to expect in the days ahead from moving dad from hospital to hospice care. Her references to this book of what to expect were just what I needed to hear.

Kathy’s sensitivity, practical compassion and obvious calling to work with the dying was a source of deep strength and comfort to us all as we had not walked this way before. God used this book in helping us to address questions as a family that we do not normally talk about and to provide us with an environment of love and care to share our hearts.

Her practical insights from more than 20 years of experience helped us move from the unknown to the known in how to prepare ourselves for the uncertain days ahead of us not only with Dad but four other deaths of parents within a period of two years.

Midwife for Souls has been a constant resource for me as a Minister in walking with families who face the loss of a loved one both for those who profess faith and for those who do not. The sensitivity, prayer and comfort that Kathy offers in this book will help you and be a source of God’s care to you. God promises to walk with us through every situation and challenge that we face and He will be with you as well. Steve

Really sorry to hear of your news Vinoth. I know friends I had here in TSCF New Zealand who had met Karin through IFES connections of some sort who recalled really appreciating meeting her and seeing your partnership together.

Thank you for your reflection and being willing to share about it. The way in which the church and Christians in general grieve and cope strikes me as one of the most powerful witnesses we have to the gospel, especially given the manner in which various western societies try to deny and avoid the reality and pain of death.

“Everyone knows that there is no technology for overcoming death. Death is left for God’s overcoming.”

And thankfully, Vinoth, God in Christ has indeed overcome death.

Thanks so much for all that you do, Vinoth. I came to your blog as a fiery, American fundamentalist and find myself, still here, as a much better (and a much more informed) person.

May your good work continue even as you find ways to cope with your loss. Be blessed my dear brother.

Thank you for your honest tribute to Karin and your grief in losing her human companionship. She was a great partner with you. May the Lord continue to guide and provide for you in this most human but difficult transition.

I am so very sorry. Yes, your road is grieving and it is long. But I tell myself I would rather have had the relationship and go through the pain, then never have known them at all. Blessings, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Dear Vinoth

I am so sad to learn of Karin’s death. It’s a long time since I last talked with her – in the IFES office in Summertown. But I can remember the conversation, and hear her voice, and see her smile in my mind’s eye.

Karin was a lovely gift so so many of us. My memory of her will always be precious. And now may the Lord give you his help as you pass through these most painful days.

I am so sorry to hear of your loss, yet glad that others confirmed your wife’s great value. I cannot imagine how you are now, indeed I fear what it would be like. So, I pray for you, and thank you for your words, which are typically wise.

Thank you for this, Vinoth. I, and many others in ABU Brazil, are grateful for Karin’s life and ministry, and for your partnership with her. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Praying for you brother Vinoth.

I am very sorry to learn of your loss. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, amidst your grief.

Dear Vinoth,

I’ve read your article and would like to celebrate your courage, love and hope. Praying for you.

Mombinou Dorichamou

Tout est dans la manière

Tél (229) 97313290

Dear Vinoth,

I am deeply saddened to learn of your wife’s death.
May God sustain and carry you through the many landscapes of mourning ahead.
Thinking back with gratitude on the occasions I have had the joy of sharing fellowship with you in IFES.

Warmly and in Christ,

Ivar

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