As many of you know, my father died when I was 13 years old. His death marked the first person I actually knew who died. My family, friends, and most particularly our priest were critical in this very challenging time.
Fr. Jack walked with me through my endless questions, sat with me in silence and would give me big bear hugs when I cried. I had spent a lot of time with him the previous year in Confirmation class, and he would often refer back to our conversations about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
By the time I graduated from high school a half dozen of my friends and classmates had also lost their lives in a variety of circumstances. For most of my surviving friends I was the only person they knew who had lost someone close to them, and as such would often want to share their grief and questions with me.
Over the decades since my father’s death, I have also experienced the death of my grandparents, my mother, numerous relatives and a great deal of friends. I have also walked with others in both the sometimes sudden and sometimes slow experience of death. Each experience, whether it be one of my beloved or others I was called upon to walk with, has been painful, sad, and holy.
In some instances the sense of the holy is palpable in the moments of the last breath and others in the moments, days, weeks that follow. Either way, God’s grace has forever entered the void that always accompanies death.
This coming Sunday I will travel to participate in the celebration of the life of Patrick and Logan. These are the two young sons of a dear friend of mine, about whom I previously wrote when they tragically died in a house fire. The moments and days since this horrific situation have been painful, sad and holy. God’s grace has showed up over and over and over again.
The loving arms of the “extended family” have been listening to each other’s questions, sitting together in silence, and wrapping each other in a big bear hug…just like Fr. Jack did for me oh-so-long ago. And we will continue to do so when we gather together on Sunday in person. We will sing, pray, listen, break bread together, and I am completely assured that God’s grace will show up.
Life, death, resurrection to new life…the journey.