I am most aware today, that every loss we experience brings back every loss we have ever experienced. We hold space within ourselves for those lives, for those memories, for every tear, every bit of laughter, and every moment we wonder what it might be like to have one more conversation, one more hug, one more knowing look that comes from having been connected as family or friend or colleague.
It’s September 11 today, and I officiated a service of death and resurrection . . . a funeral. He was, by anyone’s calculations, a rather remarkable person, though he would want to deny that if anyone attempted to tell him. His recognition and authentic acknowledgment that everyone is, in their own way, rather remarkable, was no small part of his gift to the world. He was a life-time educator and coach – I bet you could have guessed that from his humility, his demeanor, and a bit of the sparkle in his eyes. And while he coached teams to 6 state football championships, is in four Halls of Fame, and has a football field named for him, if you asked him what he did, he would say he was a math teacher. And that really says everything.
I think on this day, a little more than others, the words of the funeral ritual stood and echoed more clearly and deeply within and around my head, the bass voice singing “How Great Thou Art” a little more voluminous to my ears and heart, the words of the prophet Isaiah about mounting with wings as eagles somehow more poetic in my soul. It’s September 11.
Listening to the news as I was preparing for the day reminded me that most would stop the regularity of the morning for the moments of silence to keep at the times when each of the planes hit the towers, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania. There were shots of the memorials in each of these places and of the names listed of all on the ground and in the air who lost their lives so immediately, so unexpectedly, so dramatically that in so many ways, it changed everything. From social media platforms, to television networks, to personal conversations, folks in the days leading up to this and on this day, are longing for the unity those tragedies brought us, longing for the day before when 9-11 was simply another rather non-memorable date on the calendar, longing for a seemingly less complex time when we might ignore or deny the minor radical factions that live in every religious system that we don’t tend to notice until we can’t not notice them anymore. And the question remains, do we evaluate entire religious systems by the radical nature at the edges or the loving and compassionate hearts of the center? Perhaps we can only each answer that for ourselves in deciding who we want to be as followers of Jesus.
It’s hot, humid, and windy on this still summer but we know fall is coming Kansas day. The green tent greeted us at the cemetery and those not able to fit under found nearby trees to offer shade as we heard the finality of the end of this chapter of life for one of God’s beloved. Placing my hand on the casket and stating clearly though perhaps with a bit of trembling in my voice that happens sometimes in these aging years, “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, blessed are those who die in the Lord. Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labors.” We gathered back at the church . . . a meal, quiet and sometimes less than quiet conversations over food are somehow healing and reviving.
Upon getting back to my office, I had yet so much to do, and I could do none of it . . . no writing, no thinking, no creating, no conversing. I went home. I went home and hugged my dog. I went home and tried to hug my cats, not particularly successfully. Ringo yelled at me when I picked him up from his nap-tree in the sun, and Oscar ran under the bed when he realized my intent. I changed from my church clothes into jeans and my favorite, albeit wrinkled with a paint-spot shirt, and came back to Grace. That kind of has a nice ring to it I think. I booted a couple of boys out of a meeting in my office, I love them but I need to be alone in the midst of my books the rest of today.
The griefs I hold space for are simply needing to be felt by my heart. So many names, so many faces, so many gifts for which I’m grateful and grief-filled. And it’s September 11. For all of us so many names, so many faces, so many gifts for which to be grateful and grief-filled. Sometimes a moment of silence isn’t enough for my spirit, sometimes I need all the moments of silence. Maybe you do too?
I hope we are a gentle people with each other and ourselves every day, and most especially this day. I hope when we need all the moments of silence, we find a way to receive them as a gift from a generous God. I hope when we hold space for all those we love and to whom we have said good-bye that we receive the gift of the piece of eternity that lives here, that gift that yet comes from their lives living in us, speaking through us, believing for us that how we live makes a difference. I am humbly thankful today for a God who chooses to love perfectly imperfect people and reminds us, even and most especially on this day, that finally and eternally, love wins.