Giving Babies Food When Their Hearts Are Wide Open.
The other day I attended a funeral of a young man the age of 18. While life is so fragile and many of us do not want it taken away, this young man found the need to take leave. I walked into a religious environment that was all too familiar from my childhood days of visiting as often as I could St. Theresa’s Catholic Church down the street from my childhood home. How I loved arriving there with my playmate, Maurice who lived with his grandmother around the corner from my home, and yes, who was Catholic with all of his believing! Spending Sunday morning at Catholic mass with Maurice listening to a sermon in another language that I could not understand; yet the words were so beautiful. Yes the words were beautiful to my ears, and I considered the Holy water to hold some mystical substance that caused me to behave during the remainder of the week. On the rare occasions my parents permitted me to attend mass with my playmate Maurice, I found the exercise of genuflecting my least favorite religious ritual. However, no matter how often I graced the doors at St. Theresa’s, nothing ever prepared me for the sights and sounds of a comforting place layered and steeped in tradition, ritual, and stone life like statues that graced my presence. One of 26 parishes that closed in 1989, still standing St. Theresa’s is no longer operating under the banner of a Catholic Church.
This evening I enter another catholic church, but to no avail none of the old familiar sights and sounds that once thrilled and excited aroused me back to childhood. Yet, one would not hesitate to find certain absences but certain familiarities too. Outgrowing the childhood memory could be the cause for the ambiguous debate that I am having with my mind. Perhaps because as hard as I tried to bring back the significance of my childhood, I begin to feel the extreme amount of emptiness sequester between the sadness of two parents who had recently lost their child. The mother was in an embrace immediately following the greeting of one who came to pay their final respects. Entering we were greeted with the sound of a deep howl and cry of a wounded animal. The noise of one who would surely cry out to Jesus in their anguish “Jesus are you sleeping” resonated throughout the medulla of the soul. The grief that shook the very mystical applications of life, happiness, peace, a carefree life all the aforementioned I found missing gone, as if somehow life itself had moved away from us. The looks of the children, precious babies dressed in miniskirts, Solettos high heel shoes; bright nail polish covers their nails; new summer haircuts. Boys, dressed in cutoffs, some in shirt and ties looking awkward, with bewildered expressions on their faces, and carrying secrets….maybe? Sitting alongside the parents during the service were two empty chairs, as the brother and sister circulating through the crowd of their peers were not visible. Was it too much for them to comprehend, how does grief walk up to the innocent bystander and mingle? The large portrait at the front of the church, blonde hair blue eyes, attractive, many would say “you lucky dog” he is laughing in the picture, it was a good day, but not now, it is too late for that, not at this moment. Forever frozen in time. The mother weeps silently now, as God works His miracle drugs, the administration of angels attending to the heart and the comfort of prayers from the saints.
Not a Priest but a Deacon, started addressing the babies, as they sit hunched over in their seats, teary eyed, drowning in their grief ready with urgency for a word of kindness and instruction to assist with the pain some aid of any kind, even if it comes from an adult the enemy. The air was tense with the aroma of pleading, “just tell us we are not avant garde, tell us that we are okay kids, tell us it is going to be okay!!!…please tell us, it is going to be okay.” He tells them he is a parent of a teenager, “those of us who are parents do not want to hold you back, but it might seem that way to you as you try to establish your mark.” From then on through the service those gathered had to put the pieces together of a private tragedy, left in limbo. Sitting there, waiting for this preacher man to turn traffic cop, give us some directions man!! Like pull up, slow down; pull over to the curb and rest. Can’t you see our signals are off?? The preacher told us he did not know the young man, and that the priest told him this was going to be hard. The father with a tribute to his son took the pulpit stood at the lectern, but also left us in limbo. Left twice now, the babies nourish themselves. Sharing with us only that he left us too soon, adopted along with the brother and sister, brought from Russia in 1997. The video had to do it for us, the happy times shared on vacations, the giving to children to make them happy, happy being a mother not from the womb but from the heart, wasting no time being the dad of three children willing to be loved.
Now, as we leave this place we become like the babies struggling to arrive at a point that make sense of this type of grief, looking for direction. Leaving not having heard the poignant promises of Jesus “ I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world, you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world” John 16:33 “So, don’t be upset and don’t be distraught.” John 14:27. You are okay kids, you are okay.