I seek out patterns in things. I seek to replicate the good, or to avoid the bad.
Right now I see a horrific pattern of death among the people I know. Physical death: loved ones losing loved ones.
In October, seven people I know have lost loved ones, most of which were very sudden and unexpected.
Two of the deaths particularly hurt.
On Tuesday, I attended the funeral of a woman who I personally didn’t know well, but who was very beloved by many of my coworkers and friends—the wife of our VP of Technology, and the mother of one of our graphic designers (and one of my closest friends at work). She was 55.
Two weekends ago, a woman I knew from Intervarsity in undergrad posted that her brother, a police officer in Fairbanks, Alaska, had been shot multiple times while on duty. Miraculously, he recovered! He went home! It was an answered prayer! And then this past Friday, a plea: “Pray for the family like you’ve never prayed before!” He had a follow-up surgery on Thursday. There was a complication. He passed away Friday afternoon.
He graduated high school the same year I did.
* * * * *
I know I am not the first to cry out to the Heavens and ask why. I make no claims that I’m even making more than a mournful whisper. To be honest, I debated about whether I would even post this. The grief belongs to the families, not to me; they need prayers and comfort more than I do.
Even so, I lend my voice to the cries of those who mourn. And I ask: What’s the sense? Why so many untimely deaths? What’s the pattern?
The answer, of course, is that there is none. None visible this side of Heaven, at least. Death—especially unexpected death—is simply something that must be taken on faith.
Praise God that faith is not lacking here. By all accounts, both people I mentioned believed in Christ. They have passed from a place of suffering to a place of eternal glory and comfort with the God whom they served.
That lessens the pain for their families, but it only lessens it. It’s a light and a rope to guide them out of what is still a deep pit.
And I’m only beginning to notice how many pits there are. How many people are trapped in them. Pits of helpless circumstance, pits of their own design. Voices are crying out in anguish, all around. And all I can do is add my voice to theirs.
* * * * *
“‘Praise, Praise!’ I croak. Praise God for all that’s holy, cold, and dark. Praise him for all we lose, for all the river of the years bears off. Praise him for stillness in the wake of pain. Praise him for emptiness. And as you race to spill into the sea, praise him yourself, old Wear. Praise him for dying and the peace of death. […]
What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.”
— Frederick Buechner, Godric
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I needed something to listen to the night I heard about my friend’s brother. I needed something heartbreakingly beautiful. And I remembered a song that was posted a few weeks ago, and I listened to it on repeat all evening. The story attached to the lyrics is about finding acceptance (and the song itself is from the Song of Solomon). Right now, though, I don’t hear that. I hear a God calling his children home through the veil, a God saying, “My beloved one, it is time for you to leave this land of suffering, and come into an everlasting light.”
Rise up, my love and come away with me
For the winter cold is past
And the rain is finally gone
While the sleeping world awakens
Come away with me