Thursday, September 03, 2015
Suffering and Hope
Yesterday I received a phone call from a friend who has been asked to preside at a very challenging memorial service. Any funeral or memorial includes loss and grief, even when the person who has died lived a long and meaningful life. It is so much more difficult when those who gather know that the loss has been tragic, in this case a suicide.
The person who died was an atheist, while the parents are Christian and a sister is Buddhist. This is the reality of our culture. People come together for a service because it is important to do so, but there aren't necessarily shared convictions about what comes after this life, if anything.
In our conversation we spoke about the importance of affirming the support of friends in the midst of great loss, including those who are part of our faith community. We also acknowledged the importance of naming suffering, not as something we skirt around but as a reality we all must travel through in life.
This is an underlying theme in Buddhism but I have reminded Buddhist friends that the cross of Jesus names our Christian mystery that God has entered into human existence, sharing our suffering, and the agony of death. We are resurrection people, but "beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand."
I know this lovely family and they are not strangers to suffering and sadness, even before this death. They have also demonstrated remarkable resilience and never stopped being kind and caring to others. I have confidence that the friend who called me will be honest and hopeful in her role. I pray that the God of peace and new life will be the sustaining strength for the family.