The past is dead. The future: we don’t know. All we have is the Now.
Lent came and went, and just as quickly we saw Easter fly by. We enjoyed our spring break and while things get back to normal around here, so has my time for reflection and prayer. And yes, as you can guess, something has hit me quite extraordinarily.
A few years back, we attended a funeral. Friends of ours who live in Wisconsin had lost their dear newborn baby boy to SIDS. It was a difficult funeral to attend, you can imagine. The casket was open, and his tiny face seemed to peer just above so all could witness the value and dignity of this tiny baby’s life. The cathedral was packed, standing room only, and as our friends stood up front, walked down the aisle or turned to show their own faces – it was clear, they were struck in grief.
Their whole church community grieved with them. Looking about the pews, I’ll never forget the scene. People here and there, crying while singing, hugging while mourning, or prayerfully taking their own time in digesting such a tragedy. Making peace with such devastation, isn’t something I pretended to understand, and I still don’t act as if I know it now. I hope to never feel the depths of pain that this mother, my friend has had to endure these past years, and will always hold so close.
These family friends showed us something quite miraculous in our time up north. They were clearly struck with grief, but their witness to that entire congregation wasn’t missed on one person there. They proclaimed a kind of gratitude you’d never find in such a tragedy in secular society. Again and again, they stated their gladness in the Lord for the time He gave this baby on earth, with them, in their arms, in their home, in their hearts. They saw their little boy, as having fulfilled his mission, his purpose, and God had called him home. We never know the time or the hour.
These were people of faith. And when I finally fought through the crowd to hug my dear friend, this baby’s mother, I simply cried with her, not knowing what to say. I searched her eyes, hoping something spontaneous would blurt out, and then she nodded, and with a quiet simplicity said, “Wasn’t that the most beautiful mass you’ve ever seen?”
No matter what she would have said to me, I would have agreed. I would have said ‘yes’ to anything, to her anger, to her grief, to her frustration or her sadness. It would have all been justified. She could have taken a baseball bat to the nearest target, and it would have been allowed. Anything she did, we’d see as a mother’s grief.
But she didn’t. On this day, on her newborn son’s funeral, she took up a role so admirable, so poised with nobility, I scarcely recognized her. This was her opportunity to demonstrate through her son’s life and death, a living witness of God’s love. And she took it. And she lived it. It was, I am sure, such a sacrifice to keep herself together, to keep her wits about her. For her son, I can imagine, she’d do anything to present the depth and value this little boy’s 4 week life had.
He had an impact on hundreds of people gathered in that cathedral that afternoon. And in his life, he never spoke a word, he never sat up and declared anything. He never got that Harvard degree, not a doctor or a lawyer, not wealthy or wise. He made impact, because he was alive. That’s it. His family made an impact on these hundreds because of the witness of thanksgiving they showed again and again. In their grief, they proclaimed God’s greatness, as the weekend of the funeral was the Feast of Christ the King, and several times, these parents stated, “Christ is still our King”.
A month later or so, I received a Christmas card from my dear friend with a picture of her family, at their newborn’s baptism. They radiated life in this photo – all their six children gathered together all thrilled to be apart of God’s family, and thrilled to have added a new member to their home. And in this card, the family stated the joy they felt to have had their son, even for these few weeks, that his life had purpose, and still does, if it is to bring one person closer to God.
It’s the only Christmas card in my house, that has never made it to the trash. I re-read it every so often, and relive the whole experience. However tragic, it’s something I never want to forget. It made an impression on my heart. You never know the hour or day, that one has fulfilled their mission and is thus called home.
We don’t know.
We do know the past is dead, the future is uncertain, but the now is what we have. The now, is what we can cherish, value and make change. So kiss your kids an extra good night kiss. So hug your spouse a little longer than usual. Tell someone you love them, or bite your tongue when you know you should.
Let go of the past. Be like the birds: fear not the future. Be in the now. Live in the now. Keep your mind and heart present in every moment, aware that God was the one who gave it to you.
And as my dear friend, who still grieves for her son, would probably insist,
Give thanks for that very moment, for it is far too fleeting.
Copyright 2013 Sahmatwork