Every life is so precious, so very precious. At any moment of any day we cannot imagine how dear a life is … until it is gone. One of the gifts of ministry is that we share life with amazing people. Another gift and challenge is that we experience the deep pain of loss and share in the grief of families and friends.
I’ve always said that it seems to come in waves, and I hold to that. Lately, we’ve experienced so much grief in our congregation as families have lost dear ones … some after long battles with illness, some sudden loss to illness that took them in blink, another the tragedy of a shooting. For others the loss is a slow creeping thing; life holds on but the ravages of disease cause the person and family to grieve what has been lost and will never be again.
There are those with whom we have been able to share stories, to celebrate precious memories; to prepare for that “good death.” As a pastor, I savor those and am grateful to God for such a leave-taking. But too often, lately, this is not the case. There is just that breathless shock as life has changed in the blink of an eye. A sudden absence, emptiness leaves families gasping for air. No, not air — God; gasping for God. Trying to get a grasp on life as they fall through what seems like nothingness. Trying to see some possibility when everything – every daily task – now seems impossible.
The amazing gift is that as we wrestle with God and with ourselves in the dark night of the soul, we slowly discover what is possible. A step at a time, the ability to get up and make toast, to do the laundry, to go to the grocery, to work, to have a 5 minutes conversation without tears and then a 10 minute conversation ….
I somehow find a strange comfort in the fact that as precious and particular as each life is, every person who has ever lived before us has died to this life. Every beloved, special, unique person has lived a limited life-span. And everyone who loved that particular person has grieved because of so great a love. It has always seemed impossible to imagine that this person could die, could be here one day and be gone the next. And yet it is so.
I believe we go on, and the world goes on, because deep down we know that there is life beyond this life. That the spirit and the soul of each person is a part of life that goes on. We who are Christian believe those promises – that there is place for us, that we will not be orphaned, that now we see through a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face. We believe that we are surrounded by that “great cloud of witnesses.” Yes. Thanks be to God.