It is never easy to say goodbye, no matter what the situation and no matter who is staying and who is going. Goodbyes are tearful, fretful and sometimes they are hurtful. When we say goodbye, for the last time, there are always tears, emotions, and wishes for things said that should be unsaid, and for things not said that should have been.
Yesterday we said goodbye to a young man, twenty-four years old, in the prime of his life when he was suddenly, completely without warning, taken from us. The cause of death is still unknown and maybe when the results come in we’ll have a better understanding and perhaps even an acceptance; but, for now, there is the inevitable question of “Why.”
Things aren’t supposed to happen in that order. Parents and grandparents aren’t supposed to have to say goodbye to their children. It isn’t proper. It isn’t in the right order. Or so we say. Tears run down cheeks. Deep sobbing ripples through the room. Words of love and generosity are expressed, but the question echoes through the crowd like a smokey haze weaving its way around the still warm , breathing bodies attending the farewell, silently shouting, “Why!”
There are no real answers.
We listened as his beloved uncle told us of his life, his laughter and the joy that he had brought to the family. I was amazed and amused by this young man’s life and how evident it was, as indicated by the number of people at the service, how many lives he had touched. His exuberance had brought happiness, not just to his family but to his friends and community as well.
He was a musician, a guitarist and a song writer. He loved acting and enjoyed participating in plays. He’d had dreams, big dreams and not so big dreams. He planned on going to law school and he wanted to have a rock band. The world was his rainbow that surely should have lead to his pot of gold. But it didn’t happen that way and the pot became empty.
He went to sleep and he didn’t wake up. It happens sometimes. It is always tragic – the suddenness of it. The tragedy cuts even deeper when it is someone so young, so vibrant and so full-steam-ahead-charged. And yet, he lay there silent.
What are we to make of this? Perhaps it isn’t about the ‘whys’ or the ‘hows’ but about the “thens”… How many people in that room could have told a story about how he had touched their lives and then they were changed. How many could have told of his enrichment of their lives…the legacy, his legacy…that would now live on forever because of that moment, the then, when their lives interconnected.
As a grandparent, I tell my grandchildren of those kids I knew who were suddenly taken from us. In the telling there is always a point, a special reason for remembering them and for sharing the story. As I tell them I walk through that time, that wonderment, that moment when their lives touched mine and I was made richer and perhaps better because of that instant, I grew. That was my then because of that departed person.
There are no words to say beyond ‘I’m sorry.’ There is no way of comforting the intensely bereaved other than ‘I’m sorry.’ We can touch them, hug them, and love them but that is about it. We do have a responsibility to pray for those parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and friends and in our prayer, we have to trust the Lord to send the Comforter to them to guide them through the blackness of the hour.
We can and will remember him, his laughter, his exuberance, his enchantment with life. When the tears finally stop, we’ll smile a little when something reminds us of him. We’ll laugh when we tell stories about him. And, we’ll remember him when we see a rainbow in the sky because his contribution to our lives was truly the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.