Sunday, January 31, 2016

Death vs. Knowing and Believing

As my Facebook friends will have gathered, we've had some heavy hearts this weekend.  The father of one of Wm's soccer teammates passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on January 18.  Here is an excerpt from the homily during the funeral service I shared there, which I have chosen to meditate on for the next few weeks:

"Still we gather, sit, speak, sing, and pray; to weep with Jesus at [their] passing....The mystery is not the dying or the why, but that God stays present with [the dead] and all of you. ... Because of this mystery of love, our lives do not ever end. ... Remember that you are loved. We are here until we die and somehow be revealed." (Adapted from funeral sermon today at St Paul's, K St)

I'm repeating in the blog for special keeping since FB status pass by quickly, but these posts stick around for a while longer.  This is my second friend to have lost a husband all too young, and I found this reflection reassuring with such questions of "why?" floating around.

As Wm knew this dad, needless to say we discussed the death.  Wm also had a very church-filled weekend because his choir joined other area choirs to sing at the National Cathedral's Evensong today.  One of their songs was about the Song of Simeon, and the choral director explained the background.  On the car ride home, we shared the following conversation.

First, we discussed prophets and prophecies, since he didn't really understand the definitions of these words.  Which morphed into one of the major differences between Christians (believe Jesus is the Messiah, hence the Song of Simeon) and Jews (still waiting for the Messiah).

Wm: But, that means that maybe Jesus isn't the Messiah.  We don't really *know.*
Me: You're right, we don't.  We can only believe.
Wm: So, the Jewish people could be right and we could be wrong.
Me: Yes, correct.
Wm: But, maybe our belief is also right.
Me: Yes.  That's the tricky thing about believing vs. knowing.  And why we should always respect other religions.  Even ones that aren't related at all to the Bible.
Wm: But, we do know that when we die, like Sebastian's dad, our bodies stays here.  Your body is dead in the ground.
Me (a little nervous): Yes.
Wm: And, I think enough people around the whole world believe that your spirit goes up to God, so I think we could say we *know* that your spirit is with God.
Me: Well, some people might argue with you on that, but I think that's a logical assumption.
Wm: So, if your spirit is with God, that means your spirit can be anywhere.  Which means that Mimi's spirit could be sitting right here next to me in Ian's car seat.
Me: Mimi?
Wm: Yes, Mimi.  Right here in this car, sitting right here next to me in Ian's car seat.  It *is* possible.  I'll never *know*, but I can believe it.

I really love parenting at moments like this.  A lot of my time and effort is spent trying to keep the boys in line, teach them proper manners, trying to keep dinner time from devolving into endless bathroom jokes.  I rarely get to see them make the fun connections: they concentrate so hard at school, by the time they get home, their brains just need rest and their bodies need exercise and movement.  When conversations like this start, I never quite know where they might end - but it is always a fun path to take.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


"Resilience" is a hot topic at my work these days.  I'm tempted to call it a buzz word, except that buzz word connotes (to me) meaningless words we throw around to make our work-speak sound smart.  And "resilience" has real meaning for people who face new jobs - often in very different locations and under very different conditions - every year.

Serendipitously, the sermon at church today was on resilience.  [Text here]  Our priest quoted a book by Danaan Parry that used a trapeze analogy for life: sometimes you're swinging along just fine, and other times you need to let go to catch the next trapeze.  Sometimes you know when one of those moments is coming (starting a new job) and sometimes you don't (meeting someone who later turns out to have a huge influence on your life).  Our priest tied it into the Gospel reading, likening Jesus' baptism as a trapeze-jump moment: no one knew the heavens would open and God would speak, which had a huge impact on the growth of the church. He concluded that we ourselves should trust in God in those moments when we are flying through the air.

The point of the blog is not theological discussion.  But, the background is important, so thanks for bearing with me.

This year, Patch has opted to sit with us in the service rather than attend Sunday School.  As long as he behaves I don't mind, even if I can't really understand why he wouldn't prefer to be with his friends and eat a snack than listen to a sermon.  Lately, Patch has also been paying attention - actually listening - to the sermon. This trapeze analogy really caught his attention, and he listened without fidgeting.

At the end, Patch's reaction whispered in my ear: "Are some people really scared when things change?  I bet my life will change when we go to Vietnam, but I don't think it will be scary.  You and my brothers will be there, so we'll be ok."

I'm not intending to "humble brag" on my kid or on my parenting bringing up kids who genuinely love each other.  But a reminder from the mouths of babes (sort of, he's a bit old to be classified as "babe") that "resilience" has a lot to do with who is around you when you face challenges and changes.  Be kind to and understanding of those people, because they are the ones who will get you through it.