This morning at church the reverend closed the service by asking people to come to down to the front altar and pray for a woman who was leaving with a team of people to go to Africa on a mission trip. She knelt and many of the people in attendance gathered around her. As someone began to pray I heard a sound; “Clank. Silence. Clank. Silence.” I looked up and saw an elderly woman moving towards the group using a walker. By the time she made it up to the front, they were almost finished with the prayer but that didn’t seem to matter. What mattered was she wanted to be a part of the group, show her support, be closer to the one who was leaving, because she cared and caring most often requires our presence.
As she struggled I reflected on this woman and her concern for the other overcoming her condition. The world as we know it seems to be coming apart at the seams. Institutions, foundations, and truths we thought would last forever are crumbling before our eyes. What do we do? How do we stop it or at least stem the tide? I think we should do as the woman did this morning. We recognize our weakness, our lack of power and control, but still run, walk, crawl, towards a need and be present, change what we can by getting closer. When things are too big, too unruly, too far gone, it’s easier to stay where we are, shrug our shoulders and say; “There wasn’t anything we could’ve done.” or we can get “some “skin in the game.” We can try. We can put forth the effort with an attitude that only those who show up can make a difference.
I spent the day helping a friend go through the belongings of a dear loved one who has passed. It’s tough going. One might think it’s the expensive toys, gadgets, and gizmos which you’d want to hold on to but instead, it’s the little things; sheets of paper, old license plates, CDs, notepads. Items which wouldn’t sell at a yard sale or purchased at Goodwill are of immense value, a treasure to the ones who remain.
Death is often an open wound. Scabs may form, some healing might occur, but grasping at past memories and experiences, strains and pulls apart the wound and the pain, heartbreak of loss returns. Its hard letting go. It’s difficult to say; “goodbye.” but death demands we do it again and again in many ways, on many occasions and you wonder if it will ever be the last time.
Moving on requires that one live open-handed, no clinging to earthly, temporal things, allowing the shared life of the one who is gone to be enough.