Friday, April 13, 2018
This week’s response to last weekend’s tragic bus accident brought so many things to heart and mind, including a deeper awareness of the vast distance between us and Humboldt, Saskatchewan. Even as media of every sort worked to bridge the distance between us and them, there was and is an inevitable gap, geographically and even more so emotionally. We cannot know the depth of their communities’ grief, even as we ache for their losses.
All these kilometers away, I’m still thinking about three distinct moments of invitation, spread out across the week but all seeming to search for concrete responses to the sorrow. There was the local bakery that started selling donuts in the Broncos team colours, with all proceeds going to the affected families. Before that, our household was one of many on the street and across the country that placed hockey sticks under the front porch light. And even before that, there was a small but impactful Facebook post, shared by The United Church of Canada, reminding me that, in addition to the power of thoughts and prayers, there are concrete expressions of love that can be shared, with a card, a stamp and a team address.
The last idea is said to have been shared in worship by a colleague named Alexa Gilmour, and I’m so glad that she did. Simple as it may be, it hadn’t crossed my mind to reach out with a hand-written note. Perhaps I’d fallen prey to the notion that one only sends sympathy cards to those one knows to some degree. Perhaps I’d unknowingly ruled it out for wonder of what on earth might be said to such grief. Perhaps I just didn’t need to think so hard.
The card I bought and sent will not win awards for theological depth, but I pray it might speak some moment of peace and comfort. I trust that, alongside all the other words and expressions of sorrow, there might come a day or a way that someone in the midst of that organization, or the many layers of community, or the varied teams of support will see and know a raft of cards as simple expressions of certainty: expressions of humble confidence that, in the midst of all that might be doubted, all who grieve can be certain they are not alone in their journey. Near and far, in holy embrace, they are held and sustained, for the long term.
I know there can’t ever be enough cards and stamps to say the same to all God’s people. The lists of suffering are long and often overwhelming, and perhaps seem unreachable. But I also know that God has given each of us what we need to enter each day with openness to where we might be needed next: to speak, to sing, to write, to hold, to give, to share, to walk alongside God’s people near and far with ever-growing gratitude for the gift of life, together.
With love to you all,
“There’s a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing. You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see. While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding. You don’t ever let go of the thread.”
(By William Stafford, from The Way It Is, 1998)
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