“Death will be no more; there will be no mourning, crying or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
— Revelations 21:4b
At this writing, we are just a few days into official summer, and it is raining. A steady downpour has us under yet another flood watch. And the weeding that I have been trying to do in my garden between trips and responsibilities is beyond me. The weeds have won. I have surrendered and simply accepted them as an unruly part of a garden that God envisioned but the landscaper did not.
I spend much of my time sitting in front of a computer, in an airport or at a meeting. And I love my work. But I also love times when I can be outside, enjoying the sunshine and tending my hydrangeas and sedum. Right now, I am trying to replace the bird’s nest spruce hedge that my son’s dog ate. Yes, my 11-year-old son’s 85-pound standard poodle ate the newly-planted hedge. And I spent half an hour digging the dead root out of the ground.
My son, Kamden, who loves soccer, named his dog Pele after the famous soccer player, of course. Pele died a little over a week ago of a rare and aggressive form of canine leukemia. So, I have been close to home these past few days, tending to my garden and helping Kamden grieve. I have held him while he cried. I have sat silently and listened while he pondered how a pet that seemed so healthy and full of life could die at just ten months old.
I tell my son that Pele has gone to see God. He is eating bird’s nest spruce hedges in heaven. He is free, running, bounding about and unfettered by illness. For him, death is no more; mourning and crying and pain are no more.
Pele has gone on to a better place, I say, as we often say to those who are experiencing loss. But these words, though spoken with the best of my intentions, will do nothing to take away my son’s grief. Because grief is a part of life in relationship. It is the risk we take every time we decide to love. We grieve because we have risked investing our deepest selves in another person (or pet) whose time on earth is temporary.
It occurs to me, as I ponder all of this that perhaps, as a church, we also are in the midst of grief. We have risked loving our church. We have invested in her our deepest selves through our prayers, presence, gifts, witness and service. And, now, even as we imagine new things to come, we are having to let go of how we thought our church and our ministries would be. We are realizing, that all things pass away.
We received Pele’s ashes last week. I will propose to my son that we bury them in the garden where the bird’s nest spruce used to be. His ashes will fertilize the ground. We will plant anew. The cycle of life will continue. And, Pele, who we loved so much, will nurture new life.
A Prayer: For those who are grieving, may the sunshine of God’s love surround and embrace you. May you find companions who will listen and hold you when you cry. And may you celebrate the memory of your loved one and the risk you took to love. Amen.