John and I went to a funeral service tonight. It was so sad that I could feel the weight of grief as soon as I entered the church. Our friend’s brother was shot on a city street earlier this week. He was in his early thirties. Our friends are just devastated by this sudden loss. We wanted to support them in their time of grief, even though we can not even imagine the pain they are experiencing.
The service was different than any funeral I have been to before. There was such intense despair and a communal sense of loss. One more young man killed from a community that has already lost so many young men. Person after person rose to speak about the deceased, but also to stress the importance of ending this urban violence. Women who had lost their own children addressed the mother of the deceased man, assuring her that God would be with her in this time of sorrow. People spoke so eloquently and passionately about the need for young men to put down their weapons and let go of their desire for retribution. A cousin, who is in the Navy, said “I am overseas fighting for your freedom and you are here killing each other for nothing.” The funeral director himself begged young men to change their lives, so that they don’t end up “in the back of my Escalade.” Several people sang a capella, and each of them brought tears to my eyes with their beautiful voices and their songs of overcoming earthly sorrow.
Two young men (teenagers) have been arrested already for committing this horrible crime. Family members thanked the Rochester Police Department for their quick work and thanked community members for coming forward with information. A police chaplain spoke of his own mixed feelings in trying to minister to people who had caused so much sorrow, and urged people to ask for a Bible now, so that they won’t be asking him for one after they are in jail.
In the midst of all this communal grieving were words of praise for this brilliant young man – a man who graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA. Voices wailed with the reality of this terrible loss of life. Through it all, people thanked God for letting them know the deceased, for the time he spent on earth, for the smile he freely gave to everyone.
Of all the beautiful and passionate and painful words that were spoken tonight, one sentence keeps ringing in my ears. A woman said
“They say time heals all wounds. Well, that is not true. Time does not heal anything. LIFE heals all wounds.”
This is so true. Time, in and of itself, does not do the work. We can remain stuck in our pain and grief and anger as more and more time goes by. Wounds can fester and even deepen with the passing of time. It is when we choose life that we allow ourselves to begin to heal. It is when we acknowledge our sorrow and accept the pain and then choose to live anyway that we can begin to awaken and love and feel and grow. Sometimes, we need other people to help us find life again. Sometimes, we need love, sometimes hope, sometimes we just need someone to sit with us or listen. But, in the end, it is choosing to live, to fully enter our own lives, that breaks us out of our sorrow and grief and allows the healing to begin. When we take one step toward choosing to live, God runs to us and lifts us up and breathes life into us and reawakens our senses and helps us to experience a joy that we thought was gone forever. Making the choice to be fully alive is not an easy step, but it is the one that will bring healing and hope and joy.