This past week, I have attended two funerals. In both, family-life was highly honored. But it is the second one, that I am still arguing with the wisdom of Ecclesiastes about the timing…of everything.
The first funeral was the passing of my high school best friend’s mother at the age of 95. I was lucky when my parents moved our family of five from a small town in Illinois to Lansing, the capital city of Michigan.
The move came in the summer after I completed elementary school eighth grade, so I was about to enter high school as a freshman, eager to meet new friends. My older brother had left some of his high school buddies behind, so it was a little harder for him.
Diane became my first friend in ninth grade. Of Italian heritage, she generously shared her friendship and family with me. They were well-known in town for their extremely popular Italian fine-eating restaurant, “Maria’s.”
Her mom helped establish it as a success, while raising two energetic daughters at home. After her father’s somewhat early death of a heart attack, she continued to surround her family with love and necessities of life, and saw each of her daughters through their college educations and they both had long, successful careers in education.
Mary, later on, moved to the east coast to be near her daughters and continue family life with her children and grandchildren. A full and happy life filled with a tremendous zest for living and love shared all around.
Her daughter, Diane, shared the full story of this at her funeral service, where her mother was returned to Lansing to lie next to her husband. We, who attended the service, could feel the gratitude for such a rich and long life lived creatively for probably about as many years as most of us could hope for. I was happy to be there with Diane, and the loss, I understand, will still be enormous, no matter the number of years shared.
Yesterday, time was cut short for the 34 year old adult-daughter of a mother and father who are part of our Christ Circle Monday night prayer group. She also was a single-parent of soon-to-be teen daughter and son.
Death came unexpectedly and mysteriously to a vibrant woman, who lived fully and had big goals, soon to be accomplished with life laying open beyond. It all changed in a flash and being in the group of family, friends, and ministers of her life, I felt weak in the midst of this gigantic loss.
I have felt the need to be quiet, to search for acceptance in faith, to re-balance the cells and emotions of my body. Her mother, my prayer group friend, responded to the only thing I knew to say, “that my love will continue to pour down upon her and her husband.” She said she could feel that love. That would have to be a miracle because it is the only thing I have to give now, and it seems so little…..
There may be a time for weeping
but today I would argue with Ecclesiastes.
I would have placed this weeping
much farther in the future
on this family’s calendar
had I been the one creating the calendar.
Did the Budda weep?
I Am weeping.
A family, in loss, is my Teacher now.
I watch and listen and learn.
I hold them in my love.
The clock strikes new moments of time.
The road looks threateningly long.
Time and Distance…..
Neither of them real anymore.
No one got to set
this grief-stricken date on the calendar.
How could one choose The Time
for pre-teens to lose a mother,
young parents to lose a young-adult daughter
siblings to lose a vibrant, lively, healthy sister
friends to lose “their person” friend?
Quietly, in her sleep, she left.
No one would choose that date.
She was in her time of living, not dying.
She was in her time of seeding a son and daughter
who were growing strong through her motherhood.
She was in her time of lifting up,
enhancing her path of possibilities and purpose
in life by working and studying
to bring forth her law degree.
Her mother, who delighted in the pleasure
and treasures of gardening,
had taught her well the toil
of the soil, applied to
other worthy goals in life.
The green she was growing would
soon produce fruit
in a future legal career.
The time she was approaching
was the time for this success.
Such tender seeds about to ripen….
The harvest was not yet begun,
indeed, it was far-off.
The time of reaping was what
longed for, deserved, and
would be highly celebrated
for its joyous promise.
Yet, we have been told
no one knows
the day nor the hour.
And, instead, came the time for weeping.
Calendars and clocks no more.