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Asking the Clergy: What wisdom from your holy book best helps people navigate grief?

From left, Marie McNair of the Baha'is of

From left, Marie McNair of the Baha'is of Long Island, Bob Yugi Festa, a Zen, and the Rev. Marjory Roth of Roslyn Presbyterian Church. Credit: Composite photo: Rebecca McNair, left, Barbara Festa, center, and Russ Roth

Tens of thousands of Americans have lost their loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic, including more than 3,000 Long Islanders. This week’s clergy discuss scriptural passages that may help navigate grief.

Bob Yugi Festa of Huntington

Zen practitioner

One the most famous parables in Buddhist literature is from Theravada Buddhism’s foundational texts. The story concerns Kisa Gotami, whose only child, a son, died in his infancy. Kisa was so distraught that she carried her son’s body into the town, stopping at each house seeking a medicine that would bring her son back.

One of the townspeople took pity on her and suggested that she take her son to the Buddha. She found the Buddha and asked if he could bring her son back. He said he could, but Kisa needed to bring him a mustard seed from a home where they never experienced death. She went to each house, but while they had mustard seeds they all had a relative who had died.

Kisa realized that death is universal and a consequence of being born. She returned to the Buddha empty-handed. The Buddha said: "Dear Girl, not from weeping nor from grieving will anyone obtain peace of mind. On the contrary, his pain will be all the greater, and he will ruin his health. He will make himself sick and pale; but dead bodies cannot be restored by his lamentation."

The Rev. Marjory Roth

Pastor, Roslyn Presbyterian Church

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, it says, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”

It is the presence of God in all our moments, good and bad, that helps us navigate all that life has to offer us. However, especially when things are bumpy, it is important to remember that God is with us. Leaning on our faith, allowing God to sustain us, is what keeps us going when darkness takes over our lives.

We are all going through the same external stressors while each of us deals with our own darkness, our own grief and our unique struggles. Corinthians 10:13 reminds us that we do not have to be alone. God does not abandon us when times get tough. The light of God still shines and in fact is shining a path way out for us. We must trust in the Divine presence working in our life. God is with us so that there is nothing that together we cannot handle.

Marie McNair

Islandwide administrator, Baha’is of Long Island

The Baha’i faith has in its Scriptures an extensive description of life after death. Principles about the next life provide reassurance. The life after this one is eternal for all souls and involves a journey through many worlds of God.

The journey is not to a static place but a progression toward God. We each have an eternal being, a spiritual reality that retains our individuality, our character and our level of human development when our body dies. We cannot comprehend that existence, just like the child in the womb cannot comprehend this one, but here we prepare for that journey much like the child in the womb is prepared for this life.

Baha’is do not look at death with fear. Rather, the spirit no more perishes after the death of the body than a bird dies if the cage it is in is broken. We know that our separation from loved ones is temporary, as we will recognize each other in the next world. Additionally, we can assist the progress of the departed in the next life by good deeds and prayers on their behalf, connections that help us deal with grief.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.

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