Nothing much has changed since last October, my friends and beloved teachers are no longer here on this side of heaven. I still miss them each and every day. I miss opening up Facebook to see Justin’s antics. I miss asking my beloved teacher questions when I want to sort through something. I miss Ben’s laugh. I miss Rachel’s kindness. I miss the way Jim shared his family with my sister, mom and I and loved us. I miss them more today than the day that I found out that they had passed away. There is still a piece of my heart broken and cracked from these losses.
The last month, I have shared my stories of many of them with you. In addition, I have walked you through my own journey of grief. And there are days still that I wonder if I will catch my breathe; wondering when the next shoe will drop; when the news of yet another death will come my way. There are also days I continually find myself crying out “How long, oh Lord, will you forget me forever?” But even with that question on my lips, I see glimmers of hope. My blog friend Andrew has found a way to live with cancer. (But I also dread the day that I open social media to find the day he has finally lost his cancer fight.) Each of these families who have suffered loss are slowly finding their new normals.
Loss and grief affect us all. Sometimes it comes expectedly after a long lived life. Other times it comes so unexpectedly. It also happens through the loss of a friend, the changing of a relationship and in so many and various ways. Grief shows up in the most unexpected of places; whether through a song, a broken pair of sunglasses, a photo and in many other ways. In these most unexpected ways, God still shows up and holds us. God weeps with us in our pain and grief.
I have been changed by the relationships God has placed in my life. I have been loved and shown love by these dear souls. They were a gift to me on this earth and will continue to be a gift as I live my life knowing that they were taken from us way too soon and way too unexpectedly. They also have taught me over and over that the lenten weary road of grief is not meant to be walked alone. It is meant to be shared in community; community that holds one another in our grief and like God, weeps with us.
I will always picture a community of Ben’s friends and family gathered at that brewery in Wisconsin lifting stories and songs for our dear friend. In fact, Canticle of the Turning will never sound the same. The most powerful version sung out by many voices in that brewery. I will treasure the many faces of Ben’s colleagues and friends standing around Ben’s urn commending him to God’s care. I will forever be grateful for a seminary classmate and his wife who opened their home to me so I could attend Ben’s funeral. In addition, I am thankful for a dear colleague and friend who opened her home to me as well so I could attend our friend Rachel’s funeral. These are just some of the many ways that community gifted me this past year in the midst of loss and grief.
Because of the gift of community, I know that I will never be alone. God has gifted me with friends and family who will walk the journey of grief with me. Community holds one another up in the midst of our loss and grief. Community will pray for us when we cannot find the words to pray for ourselves. Community will sing for us when we cannot find our voice and sing for ourselves. Community will wipe away our tears.
Community is a gift that God gives us for today and the days yet to come. Community is found in the faces I see singing in that brewery in Wisconsin. Community is found in our friends as we gather and shed tears around Rachel’s casket. Community is found as a cacophony of numerous voices commend Ben to Christ’s care. Community is found in the faces of those who are standing in the sanctuarys and the gravesites as we have to say goodbye to our family and friends who have gone before us.
The truth is that I know that death will come again. It is a part of the cycle of life. I am reminded again of the words from Ecclesiates. “There’s an opportune time to do things; a right time for everything on the earth: a right time for birth and another for death, a right time to plant and another to reap, a right time to kill and another to heal, a right time to destroy and another to construct, a right time to cry and another to laugh, a right time to lament and another to cheer, a right time to make love and another to abstain, a right time to embrace and another to part, a right time to search and another to count your losses, a right time to hold on and another to let go, a right time to rip out and another to mend, a right time to shut up and another to speak up, a right time to love and another to hate, a right time to wage war and another to make peace (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; The Message).”
There will be more death and loss and grief. But I come away from these 31 days knowing that I can grieve well when I do it with others. That I can grieve trusting in the promises of Christ who promises to never leave us or forsake us. I know that I can grieve because when I cannot pray, when I cannot sing and when I cannot hold myself up, community will do that for me! And community will be there for you too.
“Community is not just about being together. It’s about doing life together (Doing Life Together; Jen Schmidt).” Or in the words of a song from the musical Wicked, I’ve been changed by you; changed for the good. The truth is I’ve been changed by the body of Christ!
Together, the body of Christ grieves with one another. The body of Christ continually shows us God’s love, goodness, and grace in the midst of life’s brokenness. The body of Christ shapes us back into whole beings. We may not be the same as we once were but we are changed because of the community that surrounded us. We are God’s living breathing kintsugi; shining out light in the brokenness of this world!
Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary ant Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart, and Kristin and Porch Stories!