Life can change so quickly. In one moment we are in a great mood…we’ve got things sort of under control… life is good. And then the phone rings… the car swerves…the blood vessel bursts, and our notion of control and happiness evaporates. This happens all the time…every day… and on some days it’s our family. This week it happened in our church family…twice.
On Sunday evening, which is like my Friday night because I take Monday’s off, Katie and I were watching a movie at home. Within an hour my phone rang ...twice. First it was Pat Nash telling me that Peter had just died suddenly while visiting friends in Arizona. And then having just said goodbye to Pat, the phone rang and it was Lillian Bowlby’s daughter telling me Lillian had died that same afternoon…suddenly and surrounded by her family.
There is a certain depth to the voice that must without preparation or warning say the word “death” to describe someone they love. That depth is most often described as being “in disbelief” or “in shock.” As I’ve listened to people over the years, I would add…“intense.” These voices are intense because the word “death” changes our lives so radically…. We have no idea what is to become of that one we must now say “has died….” We have to think about what we are saying before we even utter the word. And when the word “death” comes out, it is from a place far deeper inside us than most of us have ever known.
Today there is a certain depth to all my conversations because I’ve heard the words, “My mother… my husband… has died.” Today I’m remembering that life is fragile; the security, the success, the happiness, the hopes we all desire do not last forever. They can indeed evaporate before our eyes. Recognizing that not just for my own life, but for all those I love and care for and at least for today, most anyone I talk to, causes me to pause for just a moment before other words are spoken.
When the fragileness of life is for the short time we can handle it…within the scope of our daily awareness….I believe we experience what Jesus was talking about in John Chapter 14. There on the last night of his life, when he is talking about his coming death, the voice of Jesus grows more intense with each passing minute and then he says…Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.
Today, Jesus’ words remind me of the short novel, “The Bridge at San Luis Rey.” In this novel Thornton Wilder writes about the tragedy of a bridge collapsing. The story line is about the characters who are on the bridge when it collapses…Wilder tells the story as if we could be any one of these characters or as I read it, any of the characters could have been someone I loved. On the very last page the narrator says….
We ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
This quote has haunted me since I first read it over 20 years ago. And although to some it is an alternative to the presence of God… I have always experienced the profound …the intense nature of these words as… “of God.” You see, I do believe that, as I said last week, “God Never, Ever Leaves Us Alone.”
As Pat and her family, as Lillian’s family… must say, from depths we did not know existed, the word “death” this week… may the word that forever accompanies it be “love.”
Keep the Faith,