How can we make sense of death, especially a particular and tragic death such as Sister Denise's death in an automobile accident this past Sunday (Aug 1, 2010)?
Perhaps we can't. Or more accurately we don't see how we can in this, our current earthly life.
Last night, as I considered what and how to write the Urban Abbey blog entry for this week, reading news reports and my friends remembrances about Sister Denise, my mind went back to early 1986 and the book The Fall Of Freddie The Leaf By Leo Buscaglia. My father was dying from cancer and my wife and I pondered how to explain what was happening to our children, one in kindergarten, the other not even in pre-school yet. A friend gave us this book. It became a favorite of mine.
Freddie the Leaf fell from the tree to the ground in late autumn, after a full spring and summer of life. While many leaves do make it through all three seasons, falling when expected in autumn, others are torn from trees, shredded, and lost forever during horrible storms that reverberate through the forest and all surrounding hills. Such is how Sister Denise's death makes me feel. Her death, the injuries of two fellow sisters of the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia and the resulting holes in that community, as well as other surrounding communities remind me of the open, glaring, spaces after a storm sweeps through an area.
But remember how God uses these openings in our forests: Soon new growth springs to life, new shoots rise to meet the sun, animals, birds, lichens and moss all grow, as God intended.
Our community, formal, informal, religious, political and others are all using this moment. Debate rages regarding appropriate application of laws, what is true forgiveness, what changes (if any) we can make. Behind this remains God's call to seek forgiveness and to forgive. To cherish and treasure those among us and to celebrate the Resurrection.
Watch the news and engage in the debate, don't run from sadness and anger. Hold all before God. And if we can't think of where to start, perhaps the Prayer of St. Francis can be our springboard:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen