As a pastor I often deal with illness and death. I probably blog about it more often then I realize. I've found through the years, though, that I have distanced myself from the pain of death and loss, mostly as a survival tool. That is not to say that I don't enter into the pain of others, but without certain boundaries it seems the emotional toll would be overwhelming.
This week, though, has been a tough one. A good and kind man, a member of the church, a saint has died. Ralph was more than just a church member. He was a good friend. His death was not a shock. He had been battling cancer for about a year. But it was still unexpected in the sense that you don't ever really believe that those you love will die... that is, until it happens. South Church was better for having known Ralph and will suffer his absence.
At the same time, I've been preparing for the memorial of a 39 year old man. Ian didn't have a church home but his family connected with our church through a friend of a friend. Ian's death was a complete shock. He went to bed one night and never woke up. The lives of his three young sons and long-time girlfriend will never be the same. Although I didn't know him, I grieve for the tremendous loss of this family.
As a result of these two events, I've been thinking a lot about the Communion of Saints. The last thing I said to Ralph when I saw him on Tuesday was, "I'll see you soon." When I said that I truly believed that we would have more time. Yet my statement is still true. I will see Ralph soon. It won't be at the side of his hospice bed, but in the glorious company of the saints of the light... and for that I give all my thanks and praise.