Saturday, April 19, 2008

Three Funerals and a Wedding

In the last two weeks I've been affected by three deaths... one, the son of a woman in my church; two, my mom's first cousin; and three, my mom's first cousin once-removed.

Meanwhile, my wedding is three months from today.

I'm having a hard time taking it all in and making sense of it. It's hard for me to understand why my life is so idyllic--great family and fiance, great opportunities, great support. All three of these people died in tragic circumstances and unmet potential. For the funeral in my church I helped with childcare and watched the kids run around and play with such innocence, and saw their parents pick them up after the service with blurry eyes and hold them really tight. The day after that funeral I attended a baby shower for a child who entered the world the next day.

In my cousin's funeral today I cried and cried because of our utter shock about her death. It was totally unexpected. The pastor prayed that we would remember the good things about her life that would make us a better person. She encouraged us to grieve together. I only saw this cousin once a year or so, but every time I did she spoke of making her life better for herself, and she was trying. I left the family post-gathering to spend the evening with my fiance, whose birthday is today. We went downtown with friends and laughed and walked around and celebrated his life.

I won't be attending the third funeral. I never met this cousin and it will simply be a small graveside service. My mom and a handful of family will be there, mourning his death while I celebrate with my fiance. She said it should be my priority to spend the day with my him and his family, in honor of his birthday.

Hebrews and Native Americans and probably many other cultures conceptualize time in a circle, as opposed to our Western linear ideas. This makes more sense, and seems more Biblical, and feels more like God. Babies are born in our lives the same week 17 year olds are killed. Loved ones celebrate their birthday on days we lose other loved ones. God notices the sparrow that falls and the sparrow that hatches.

Today the pastor said she doesn't believe that God takes us into death, but when we die He is there to receive us. I agree with that. I don't believe that God kills kids or takes people before their time. But I do believe He has this great, incomprehensible balance in the created world. We have to have death and birth, and somehow even the most tragic deaths are beautiful. Life is short enough and long enough all at the same time, and God grieves when people die and rejoices when people are born.

All the things I'm feeling today, He feels them all, in much bigger ways, and that's what I'm clinging to right now.

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