Death sucks; it gets us stuck in the horrendous depths of life.
I was raised Catholic, and not just a little Catholic; an every-Sunday-service, go-to-church-camp, mom-taught-God-every-Wednesday-night kind of Catholic. Later in life I turned my cheek to the hours I logged as a devout Catholic to bow towards my own exploration of spirituality. Every ounce of that choice and journey has lifted me up and for all the right reasons.
The counter-narrative showed up this week…
I found myself back in the Catholic church to celebrate a life gone too soon. My strong and centered self began crying the moment I knelt down and leaned my back against the welcomingly hard pew. Tears immediately streaked down the sides of my face and dropped deep into my chest for reasons we would all agree obvious; I was bearing witness to stunning struggle, breathtaking loss and the realness of hearts-held-hostage to pain.
I was blindsided by my other tear-filled reasons; invisible reasons that could only be understood by the bravery of my own soul.
The entire experience was an overwhelming flood of my being. The first note of Amazing Grace hit my memory with the kind of joy that stops you in your egotistical tracks. I could hear my mom & dad’s voices singing along with everyone in the congregation. I was suddenly 7 years old again, sitting-in-shenanigans alongside my two brothers (of whom I can selfishly still hug next week at Thanksgiving). I remembered the strength of my parents and their unwavering guidance to make us sit our butts in those cold, hard benches every Sunday.
More voices emerged; One Bread, One Body and On Eagles Wings. I found myself struggling to lift my head up and acknowledge the awfulness of the situation; a dear friend battling sadness and despair. My weakness turned to embarrassment when I realized that my twenty years of faithful neglect had left me out of new refrains and I eagerly awaited the moment when we would be invited to extend peace to those around us through harmonious handshakes. Once held in the palm of another’s hands, I was incredibly proud to accept Communion and to touch the experience of this glorious world to my tongue.
I may not be attending church every Sunday, but I accept my Catholic upbringing and respect the incredible influence it has on who I am today. Ritual, discipline and forgiveness are all things I believe in and they cannot be understood from my perspective only. Setting foot inside the glass-stained archways of this world is necessary because I am destined to get stuck; days when the sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine. In these heart-wrenching moments, I will need to let go; my own beliefs and experiences will have to kneel in understanding to the beliefs and experiences of others. There will be no full or resounding answer because truth exists in both individuality and totality.
Amazing Grace is a lyrical legacy that breathes life back into people, and balance can be found within vicissitude. When we choose to show up in the crossing of life & death, we are invited to be hugged in grace. We are offered closure and rebirth.
The beautiful and full life that was lost this week is meant to be cherished for every moment it intersected with another. I have no idea how to deal with death, but I can choose to live a fuller, deeper and more honest life in honor of those who have already given the same.
We are here for such a short time.