Grief: Great sorrow, especially that caused by death.
Grace: The free and unmerited favor of God.
Where is God in the face of grief? Have you recently experienced God’s grace? These questions that Rev. Nick asks us to reflect upon this Lent are ones that I have been turning over in my mind.
My friend Chris Marrion died suddenly on December 30 of last year. Those of us who knew and loved him are still reeling from this loss. Chris was one of those friends who “got me” — I could just be myself with him and vice versa. His absence over the past months has only added to this sense of isolation I’ve been sitting with for so long. I’ve written before that our faith reminds us that God shows up, we just have to notice. I’ll admit that I’ve struggled to see God in the midst of this grief.
Chris’ memorial service was held on March 12, and his husband Randy asked me to plan the music for it. Chris and I were musical colleagues as well as friends, and I knew that he particularly loved art song and opera. So, I got to work and selected a combination of pre-recorded and live music, each chosen with specific purpose and meaning. Along the way, I offered to take on creating the service bulletin, obsessing about every revision, making sure every detail was covered, working with the technical team at the church where the service was being held to ensure that the pre-recorded materials would be available not only to those in person but also to those attending via Zoom, and so on.
Clearly, this was my way of showing how much I loved Chris, and yet, for one reason or another, every step of the journey to the day of the service felt as though I was pushing a boulder up a mountain. Why was this so hard? Why was I so frustrated? Was everyone else’s grief part of a larger puzzle? Were we each pushing our own boulders to the point where we couldn’t see anything or anyone else?
Grace within my grief finally arrived on the day of the memorial service. Witnessing and participating in the love and care Chris’ family and friends showed each other through our collective grief was that grace. Whether through the service bulletin, the prepared prayers and remarks, the remembrances, the music, the flowers, or the reception, we showed our love. And it reminds me how important funerals and memorial services are to the grieving process.
God showed up, in community, connection, remembrance and grief, and I noticed. For that I’m grateful.
Where is God in the face of grief? Have you recently experienced God’s grace?
Dave McSweeney, warden