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August 2, 2015

Acts of Love

This insightful post is from blogger, teacher and preacher Troy Sims. The paintings included in the post are by his father, Paul Sims, who died earlier this year. Paul had many a brush with health crises, but lived long enough to know his grandson Micah and be present for some very special visits with Troy, his wife Sandra, and Micah. It is especially important during the first year after a loss to create rituals of expression for one's grief, and one's gratitude. Troy's donut mission is a perfect example of how both grief and love can find expression, how we often find deep meaning and comfort in what once were simple, everyday details of life. To read more of Troy's work, visit  

Ritualizing Grief

by Troy Sims

When I was growing up, my family lived in the North Central Texas countryside. Occasionally, my father would get up early on a Saturday morning and drive into town to get donuts as a surprise treat for breakfast. Southern Maid was his brand of choice then. He always bought the glazed ones, because the whole family liked those the best. This remains a fond memory.

Fast forward 30-plus years to March 7, 2015. I awake to hear my wife Sandra on the phone. I can hear only her side of the conversation, but I know what has happened. “I knew this was coming,” I think to myself as I lay in bed in a state of numbness.

After making a few calls, I sit at the computer to look at flights to Texas. In that moment it truly hits me that my Dad, my hero, my friend, is gone. I burst into tears and feel something I had not felt since November 24, 2009.  

Tree and Mountain, Paul Sims
Actually, “felt” is not not nearly the right word, as it was much more than a “feeling.” But in that moment, I “felt” the same way I had when my son Micah was born. One event was more than joyful; the other event was more than sad. Yet, I experienced the same feeling (and more). This didn't make any sense to me whatsoever.  How could I experience something so similar when these events were so vastly different?

A week later, back in our Texas hometown, I decided to do what my Dad had done for us so long ago. I got up early and went to the place that had become Dad's brand of choice in more recent years—Hot & Creamy Donuts. I ordered a dozen—half glazed and half chocolate. My wife and son prefer the chocolate. Then I drove to the cemetery to share a donut with Dad, once again.

I laid a glazed donut at the head of my father’s grave and took one for myself. As I stood at Dad's final resting place before flying back to my current home in Washington, DC, I realized just what the feeling I was experiencing was:  love. In extreme joy and extreme pain, I experienced the same love, the love between a parent and a child. And, I understood that grief, though painful, is an act of love. 

Because grief hurts, we often seek to minimize the pain and not put ourselves in situations where we will feel the loss. We try to forget. We try to stay far from places that bring up memories of our loved one. We try to do something different from what we did before, because repeating the actions we used to do brings us pain or sorrow.

We need to show our love in grief, though—even in crazy acts that might make us cry or hurt. We need to be open to ritualizing our grief, because as religious traditions have shown for centuries, ritual helps us deal with, work through, and remember life and love.  

Flowers by Paul Sims
Living far away now, I can't guarantee that I can share a donut at Dad's grave at specific times, but I plan to surprise him from time to time when I'm back home by sharing a donut with him again. And, I can surprise my son with chocolate donuts, too. Thanks for the example, the memories, and the opportunities, Dad. You are loved.

Copyright, Troy Sims, 2015.