After breakfast this morning, just before Kip left for work, the phone rang. I could tell by the way he covered his mouth and sat down that it wasn’t good.
I handed him the sandwich I had made him for lunch and waited.
He looked up at me and shook his head, “He’s dead …” he whispered.
I imagined the worst. I couldn’t imagine anything.
He hung up and told me a story that didn’t make sense and I felt the world spin.
Kip had an appointment on his calendar to meet with him this afternoon. He should be alive.
I called my friend's wife, and we cried together. It just didn’t make sense.
Kip decided not to go to work. He swept the porch instead. Then he cleaned out all the waxy candle holders. I started making cookies, dozens of them.
The kids wanted to know what had happened. But what do you say, “Your friends’ daddy is gone?”
By mid afternoon I decided to just get in the car and drive out to where my friend was. I brought the cookies and we sat in her parents’ kitchen and cried together.
She told me how, just last night, she had held her husband's face in her hands and told him she loved him. She believed in him.
She said over and over again, “He was the love of my life!”
I don’t know much about death. My parents are alive. My grandparents are alive. A couple weeks ago a cousin that I had only met once, died instantly in a car accident, but his funeral was in Bermuda, and I didn’t go. I don’t think I have ever been to a relative’s funeral, certainly never a close friend.
I know that when Christians die we often say cliché things about someone being in the presence of God, being at peace, being free from pain. Today it didn’t seem so cliché.
It was the only thing that made sense. He is with Jesus, free from pain and depression, probably laughing and dancing and telling great stories. He is more fully alive than he was here.
I believe in Heaven.
I believe in a place where everything finally makes sense – where justice triumphs over human oppression and God makes it all right. He heals broken bodies and sets prisoners free.
But in the pain of living this side of Heaven, I just wish He would have provided that healing here. Here is all I know. Here is where my friend's wife and three kids live.
But Jesus knows. He walked this earth. He knows our sorrows. That’s why he wept with Mary and Martha, even after he boldly proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live!”
My friend introduced us to Lectio Divina, an ancient monastic practice of reading scripture and listening quietly for God’s voice. Several of us used to meet weekly in our home for dinner or just to hang out. And sometimes we practiced Lectio together.
The way it worked for us, someone read a paragraph of scripture while everyone else listened. We talked about it and then read the same short passage again and listened again and repeated the whole thing a couple more times, and then prayed for each other. It was rich. I can still see my friend sitting cross legged on our living room floor, eyes closed, drinking in God’s presence.
I loved to hear him talk about God. He was an artist/producer/set designer. So when he talked about God and what community was supposed to look like, he used beautiful images. When he spoke at church he rearranged the furniture first to create the right environment.
He loved people too. He believed that it was important to spend time with people, to invest in their lives. He talked about community alot and what it meant to "live life together." I think that is why I had to see my friend this afternoon.
I don't know .... I'm sure I'll understand it all someday. But for right now, it just seems right to weep because I'm really sad. And believe in Heaven.