I come to this week with a heavy heart. My lifelong friend Michelle died two weeks ago, unexpectedly and without warning. In the Great Litany (1549), Thomas Cranmer prays that we might be saved from dying “suddenly and unprepared.” Michelle was an international judo champion, a strong and independent soul. I suspect that forensic tests will show that she experienced significant brain trauma from throwing judo partners around on the mat for fifty years, but we may never know the cause of death. Death is never easy, but when it comes so quickly, it is even more traumatic for family and friends.
Loss. Grief. Heartbreak. Memories flashing back of high school canoe trips, college roommate days, trips up north and long conversations since. Confidences shared; trust always. And in the midst of this grief, comes today, August 15th, when we celebrate Mary, Jesus’ mother.
Hmmph. What does Mary know about grief, about loss, about separation? Well, as I think about it, quite a bit.
She worried about Jesus when he was born, and when crazy old men from distant parts of the world insisted on laying treasures at his feet. She worried when he was twelve, and cast Joseph aside for God, insisting on teaching men two and three times his age about eternal truths. She was ignored by Jesus when he took up his strange ministry. “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:48) And then she did something most of us, thankfully, do not have to do: she watched her son’s execution, from only feet away.
She had said yes to God and to faith as a teenager. And her faith continued. Except for one mention in Acts 1: 14, we don’t hear of her in the Bible after the resurrection stories. Tradition tells us that she stayed in that place of love as an adult. Yet I am guessing that her nights and days on earth were long ones, still pondering things in her heart.
God had chosen Mary wisely, for she kept her faith. And that is her great gift to us: an example of how to say yes, even in the midst of fear and anxiety and loss…that those things and people and places that we have known and loved will pass away, but we go down the road of faith…that we hold onto our decisions, that we trust, that we go forward in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, of seeing those we love again, of knowing they stand by us still.
All we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Photo: Bud Holland, Cape May