Eight . . . eight is the number of years since your leaving. So much life happens in eight years, so much grief outpoured, so much thinking and reflecting done. Eight is long enough to notice that time has gone by but when it comes to death, eight might as well be one. Such is the finality of death, such is the promise of eternal life.
Recently I told your story, our story again. This time around a dinner table as we gathered to say goodbye (for now) to Papa Gene. Death stimulates our longing for stories, death begs for re-membering, death begs for the balm that stories bring. So I told our story, your story again.
I know that I am not alone, that the many you touched in life are often telling your story, somehow still trying to make sense of it, trying to find healing for what is now a scar that will never go away.
In the last year, I’ve been constantly reflecting on scars. On how the pastoral life leaves you marked, the longer you live it, the more marked you become. This scarring is varied and unique to each person and place. In some ways it could be seen as the rings of a tree, a sign of age, perseverance, and new life.
At times it’s our baptismal mark that gets tender, these are the moments when it seems like God has come visiting. Babies being born, couples making covenant, people gathering around crumbs, and oil on foreheads for healing, all making our baptismal mark active, tender, and strong.
Then there are the marks of disappointment, trials, and heartbreaks. Those events, encounters, and seasons that make you question yourself, your call, and the ministry of the church. These scars are incarnate examples of the difficulty of discipleship but also of the power of God to work in us and through us in spite of our scars.
Eight . . . eight is the number of years healing, hearing, and heading into my continuing call. My re-membering guides my way, my scars, keeps me humble, and your leaving continues to inspire me to be a spirit-stirrer, space-maker, and gatherer of people.
I’m still marked . . . you are still missed . . . I’ll see you at the great feast!
Peace & Love, Juan+