Mourner’s Path Closing
June 8, 2017 St. Marks Episcopal Church, Little Rock
What a journey we have been on. Pat, Patricia, and Susan and I have had the privilege of spending eight weeks with a group of very brave people who have shared with us their loves, their losses, and their triumphs.
You have listened and told each others’ stories of loved ones who have died. You have shared their pictures. You have talked about how you learned to grieve as a child. We have talked about the physical side of grieving. We have talked a lot about tears. We have learned that tears are helpful and appropriate in our grief. Jesus, our mentor, wept at the death of his dear friend, Lazarus. You have shared what you miss the most and what you are doing to live on, how the relationship continues in a very different way, and about small victories in your life. You have talked about how difficult it is to live on and make decisions now especially when the one you loved was bigger than life and that their life sometimes ended so tragically. You have talked about places on this journey where you seem stuck, but you also have talked about how you honor and remember your loved ones in standing stones. You have shared how you have stayed connected through God nods, dreams, books such as Tear Soup, pictures, emails, bracelets, notes from friends of yours and your loved one, meeting with clergy, being with children and grandchildren your loved one also loved, Facebook Mother’s day messages, serving and caring for others that knew or did not know the one you loved. You have talked about best times, memories to hold on to such as Christmases. You have talked more about those small victories: just getting out of bed, returning to church, just coming to Mourner’s Path, going outside and doing something your loved one liked to do, living in the moment, being more aware of the pain of others, making new friends for a venue of your old stories, walking, giving up being the cruise director, seeing cardinals, working in gardens. Tonight, just before this service you have let each person know about the change you have seen in yourself and in them during these eight weeks. Finally, you have written a letter to your loved one that you will offer at this altar.
We have questioned where was God is all this sadness and tragedy that you have experienced. Sometimes the God of your understanding seemed absent or at some great distance. We have told you to let us and the group hold that faith in God for you when it becomes too hard. Many have come through this experience with a different relationship with God and a new understanding of the person God created you to be.
Each of you has a different story and is at a different place on this journey. That is what has been especially beautiful about our group. I think each of you has respected the other and not insisted that your neighbor’s journey be like your journey. I, as well, can only share my experience. This is what I learned from another mother whose child was tragically killed.
Several weeks after her daughter’s funeral, I met Mary for coffee. Her daughter, Anne, had been killed in a tragic train accident in another country the summer before she was to enter college. We met on an usually cool summer morning. I felt Mary in the room before I even saw her. After a tearful hug we began talking about Anne’s funeral. We marveled at the number of friends Anne had and the people she had touched in her young life. We went over all the details of the glorious celebration of Anne’s life that was right here at St. Mark’s: the music, the choir, the liturgy, the reception and how no one wanted to leave. Mary then began slowly to talk about the new directions she already felt in her life. She told me how she had spent much time trying not to wear masks in her life, but that this great loss had made her even more desiring of not being anything that was false to her. She was living her life one day at a time. She was not making a lot of plans and was trying to be open to what God had in store for her that day. She also had a vision of what her life's mission should be: to become the person God had intended her to be with all her heart. Mary was not certain what that was, but she was more open than she ever had known. She spoke of feeling God's presence and support throughout this entire tragedy. She wondered how anyone could survive such a loss without love and faith in God. / Then she could barely speak as she softly whispered that she had some insight into the thoughts of our Lord's mother, another Mary, at the cross.
Each of you has had a Mary experience of being at the foot of the cross. Some of you were far off on a hill, others were right at the foot of that cross. Our sessions were during the Easter season. I think that each of you has also experienced a taste of resurrection, a new life, which like new birth has often been very painful. Each of you is in a new relationship to the one you have loved who died as well as in a new relationship to God.
I hope you will also get to know a powerful community of people who have been surrounding all of us these past eight weeks with God’s embrace. These are the prayer partners who are sitting with us. I have learned from them the power of prayer, for they have been the glue/ praying for us and holding us together these past weeks. /
May you continue to feel the loving arms of this group you have met with for eight weeks, your prayer partners, and our God who has always been silently holding you in your loss.
Henri Nouwen writes that when we die, our love remains. Love is eternal. Love comes from God and returns to God. Love is the life of God within us. It is the divine, indestructible core of our being. This love not only remains but also bears fruit from generation to generation.
The love of God that dwelt in the heart of each of those you loved who died will come to you and offer you consolation and comfort. Our experience is that you have also felt that love in the members of this group, and that as you continue your journey, you will continue to feel that love, share that love, and hold and heal others as you have helped heal and hold each of us.