Lost Friends

While we were away in Nevada, one of the pillars of our parish passed away unexpectedly as a result of what should have been a minor injury. A man in his 80s, he took a bit of a fall and hit his head. He felt fine immediately after and thought nothing of it. However, because he was taking a fairly significant dosage of Coumadin, what would have been a minor bump on the head for most people, for him resulted in a fatal cerebral hemorrhage and a massive subdural hematoma. A couple of hours after the fall, he was unconscious and two days later his family was deciding to remove life support….

A colleague who had been associate pastor in my parish under a former rector filled in for me and handled the Requiem. After we returned, I officiated at the committal of his ashes in a military-honors ceremony.

Since our return, another older member of the parish has passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and we have scheduled her funeral for next week.

Meanwhile, other old friends are retiring and moving away ….

Whether by relocation or death, the loss of friends causes some feeling of diminishment. The world is a smaller, paler, poorer place without their presence. I know full well and good that they are not gone … those who have moved elsewhere are only a phone call or an email message away. Those who have passed on are not dead (“life is changed, not ended” as the eucharistic preface for funerals says), but living in God’s nearer Presence. Yet … the sense of loss and loneliness is no less real.

At the committal of my friend’s ashes, I read this meditation by Canon Henry Scott Holland, a part of his sermon entitled “The King of Terrors” preached on the death of King Edward VII:

I have only slipped away into the next room

I am I and you are you

Whatever we were to each other

That we are still

Call me by my old familiar name

Speak to me in the easy way you always used

Put no difference into your tone

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed

At the little jokes we always enjoyed together

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me

Let my name be ever the household word that it always was

Let it be spoken without effort

Without the ghost of a shadow in it

Life means all that it ever meant

It is the same as it ever was

There is absolute unbroken continuity

What is death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind

Because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you for an interval

Somewhere very near

Just around the corner

All is well.

 

I know full well that this piece is sentimental and sappy, and lifted out of the context of Holland’s sermon it fails to give a full portrait of his theology. Nonetheless, it is comforting and it is a reminder of the truth that for God’s faithful people “life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.”

 

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1 Comment

Filed under Anglican Comment, Anglican Stuff, Christian Stuff, Episcopal, Sermon, Theology

One response to “Lost Friends

  1. Ann

    Eric, a lovely piece. As a retirement parish, I see the waning and decline and death of all too many members. If you have any retiring here to Tennessee, be sure and let me know, and refer them to me, as well. We lose a few Episcopalians to churches nearer-by (never more than 10 miles), and I’d like to avoid that, if they come to Crossville. I am sorry for your sadness, but also experience that.

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