October 26th, 2018
~ John 11:35
Each day I encounter families coming to terms that someone in their family is dying, and the struggles that many of them face as grief and the reality of death seem to arrive simultaneously. It is especially hard to watch parents care for a child, no matter what the age, die.
I remember in 1998 I was in my second year of seminary when a young man in Wyoming was left dying on a fence rail in the dark, cold night, in Wyoming.
Having lived in Wyoming for several years, I knew what the nights were like. I was always amazed at how light it was, even on the darkest of nights, as stars and the moon would illuminate landscape, revealing the things that in so many places can only be found in the shadows.
The taunting, misleading, and beating of the young Matthew Shepard left all of us wanting to hold our children a little closer, and to find a way for us to talk more openly with one another about hate, and its implications when it becomes an act of violence towards others.
I traveled to Washington D C and stood on the steps of the Capitol, with thousands of others, who suddenly found called to speak out for something to change in our society. While living in Wyoming I served on the Crime Victims' Coalition, and had worked with law makers and victims to try to create laws that would protect people effected by violence.
I couldn't imagine the pain that this family had encountered, and I simply needed to be with others who were feeling the way I was. I needed to share my voice among the crowd that gathered.
The night was cold as we walked the Washington Mall and up the stone steps where lawmakers and a number of leaders, would come and share what they were feeling, and how they would work hard to see that this never would happen again.
We all seemed to huddle close together as the wind seemed to join in with the anger and pain we were acknowledging. One of the friends I was with was deaf, and so we were close to the front so that he could be sure to see the person signing for those who could not hear.
It was from that vantage point I could see the faces, see the tears as they flowed, and watched as lawmakers stumbled over their words to try to say something that would finally bring closure, or peace to those, like myself, who had traveled a great distance.
Today that young man will finally find rest. His ashes will be interned at the National Cathedral. This morning I awoke, and asked God that a mother and father finally be allowed to find some peace to this journey.
Grief is different for each of us. So often we expect people to suddenly be "back to normal," after suffering a loss. For many of us, including myself, grief is a life-long process with many hills and valleys.
The shortest verse in the Bible consists of two words. "Jesus wept."
While it occurs at a place where he encounters the tomb of his friend Lazarus, I have to believe that it happened more than once on his journey, and continues with us today. The reality of grief, sorrow, and the hatred that we encounter among the world that we live in causes our souls to cry out. While we may not understand it at the time, we come to the realization that with our tears, comes the tears of Christ, washing over us at the same time.
Many times while I look out over the open sea, I find the salty water to be the reminder of the tears that God has cried for us when we encounter sadness.
The reality is both reassuring and sacred. It is the reminder that the love of God allows for tears, and the difficult questions we ask when we are suffering.
Today I grieve for a family that will finally close a chapter, and for the grief they have carried, and for all of those who have encountered hatred, violence and death. For us as a society who will encircle those who have suffered loss, and for the presence of Christ who cries with us while we are held in God's grip.
G. Todd Williams (c) 2018
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Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.