Sunday, June 22, 2008

On Death

There are many things to reflect upon while on an extended vacation like our: food, architecture, church life, glorious landscapes, and the discoveries in reading. But this week the church I serve experienced a wrenching loss, one that I felt personally. A friend died too young and tragically.
The circumstances surrounding his death create nothing but pain and speculation. He left behind a wife, three sons and two daughters-in-law and numerous friends. His was a story of ascent to wealth and community prominence. He was a leader in the church and the community; both secular and spiritual. He was present at countless fund-raisers for the Rescue Mission, Young Life, Transition House and other great causes. He was generous to a fault. He provided me with enormous encouragement and sage advice. He co-chaired the building committee for the beautiful church building we now enjoy. He was a champion problem-solver.
Early this morning, as is my custom, I arose about 6:00 am, padded quietly into the living room and put on the coffee. I found my Bible and note pad and opened to where I left off yesterday, Ester 9. I finished Esther quickly and then dove into Job. I have never read Job in one sitting. This morning I had the time and motivation. It was the story of a man’s profound suffering and his friends’ words of advice and encouragement. Reading Job in the shadow of my friend’s untimely death was beyond deeply moving and disturbing. Some of Job’s words were my friend’s words. Some of Job’s pain was his pain. And, I pray, Job’s hope is now his hope.
Now our church is left with a deep ache for a family in pain and I am left with a deep ache for a really good guy who is gone. It all overshadows this pristine vacation environment in France.
All around us are people living very fragile lives that look fine and healthy on the surface, yet deep down are profoundly struggling. A young man living above our apartment here fights his own demons through the night, breaking furniture and talking loudly to himself, but accepting no help, living in his own weird solitude. I know single mothers facing huge challenges of raising children alone and senior friends with spouses falling into dementia. There are friends in midlife whose careers are at a dead end, and there seems to be no good next step. Others are watching their children making choices they would not make and ache for their wellbeing. None of us is immune. We all face suffering; whether our own of that of our close friends and family. The choice is whether we go it alone or fall into the arms of others and the body of Christ.
I feel uncomfortable mentioning my friend’s name, but ask those of you who read this blog to pray for his family and the Montecito Church as they grieve his loss on Sunday afternoon and then put pieces of their lives back together in the months and years to come.
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God.” Job 19:25,26


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