A gracious Sabbath stood here while they stood
Who gave our rest a haven.
Now fallen, they are given
To labor and distress.
These times we know much evil, little good
To steady us in faith
And comfort when our losses press
Hard on us, and we choose,
In panic or despair or both,
To keep what we will lose.
-Wendell Berry, part I of “Sabbath Poem II 1985” in A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997, p 74
Each year I think that I am over it, you know, your leaving. I think that this year I will not be saddened, will no feel my heart racing like on that day, will not shed any tears. But here I sit four years later, and it is still so real, tears are shed as I write, I can still close my eyes and feel your warm forehead as we prayed. We prayed hard, as you know, we believed that you could stay with us. Like Berry tells us we chose “in panic or despair or both, to keep what we will lose.” Maybe this year I’ll make no promise for the next, maybe I’ll continue to “keep what [I] will lose,” because truth be told, it is worth keeping.
Here is when I am thankful for the community of saints. This past year has been full of difficulties, heartbreaks, and change. You came to mind many times during those days and your visitations were a welcomed breath, a calming force, the fruit of divine grace. Then we moved, well a few weeks ago we moved, and I wondered if you would know where to find me? Then the other day I was giving Holy Communion and this little boy came to the table. His little hands outstretched, ready and eager to receive . . . and there you were standing beside reminding me that the prayer that I pray, that the Spirit that I invoke, is true. Reminding me that I am indeed surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses. How this could be real and true is truly a mystery, and I’m so thankful.
It all seems so near in spite of the four years that separate us from those fateful days. It was 5:55 AM when my phone rang. I rolled out of bed knowing that something was not right. As I drove I wondered why your parents called me, each year I am more thankful that they did! Although so close we know that the years have gone by. Your “friends,” those that you knew well and those that know you well, are growing up so fast. This year Seth turned 7 . . .
For we are fallen like trees, our peace
Broken, and so we must
Love where we cannot trust,
Trust where we cannot know,
And must await the wayward-coming grace
That joins the living and dead,
Taking us where we would not go —
Into the boundless dark.
When what was made has been unmade
The Maker comes to His work.
-Wendell Berry, part II of “Sabbath Poem II 1985” in A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997, p 74
Just a few weeks ago your parents and other friends met Connor. Although I was not able to be present (I promise to meet him one of these days) I know it was a “wayward coming grace that joins the living and the dead.” It was the incarnation of an answered prayer, that you would live, that you would be with us, that you would be allowed to make a difference. WOW!! What a an amazing gift you gave!
These years have been for me the unfolding of my calling to be a pastor. As you know it has not been always easy, many times I’ve wanted out. At each point of my unmaking you have been there, the Spirit reminding me of that fateful day when the Spirit called me to your bedside and gave me the strength that I did not have, the words that I could not speak, the presence that I could not sustain.
Warmed foreheads still need prayer, eager hands still await . . . the “Maker” still coming to his work.
I’ll see you at the rail . . .
Peace and much love, Juan+