Saturday, July 04, 2009

The saddest thing ...

...about the funeral service I attended yesterday was the small coffin. As a teacher, I've been to a number of funerals of teens and young adults. There is a certain logic to most of these--it's either a catastrophic illness or some risky or extreme behavior. You wouldn't call them senseless in spite of the pain.

In this case, it was the death of a four year-old, from some unexplained cause. The parents have been in the midst of a very unpleasant divorce. The parents had separated and the children were with mom. Ostensibly, the child went to bed one evening, and never awakened. I don't know the story, but there was certainly some tension at the funeral. Mom was not present, and the story was that there is a cloud of suspicion over the child's death, which authorities are pursuing. No one knows anything for sure.

The celebrant spoke in his brief homily about a phrase from the liturgy--"the sure and certain hope of the resurrection." This addresses the situation most fittingly. In the first place, our faith is that the kingdom of heaven welcomes its newest soul with open arms and in God's love and comfort. Our prayers have value in carrying the young spirit to the bosom of the Maker. Secondly, we are reminded that our world is not paradise. We, God's people, do horrible things. These things are not just the outpourings of aberrant, sick individuals but belong to us as the human family. All are called to repentance and sorrow, even though specific moral guilt may not fall on all. By the same token, all are called to hope--repentance is pointless without a hope of forgiveness and renewal of life, "a sure and certain hope of the resurrection." This is what enables us to abide the sadness.

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