Last week I attended the funerals of two 60-something friends who died suddenly and unexpectedly. It was a terrible week.
One had a massive stroke. One committed suicide. One service was in a big suburban church with high-tech systems to splash hymn lyrics on the wall. One was in a high-toned, glorious stone sanctuary 109 years old in Midtown.
And if life is a gift -- as I believe it is -- the sudden removal of that gift leaves us with what the pastor who performed one of the services called "lingering shock."
In some ways, that's not a bad description of the way we go through much of life, starting with the rude astonishment of birth itself, when we leave the warm comfort of the womb and are thrust into a strange land where we are expected to breathe on our own.
Later, our first experience of injustice or disappointment leaves us with more lingering shock. How can this be the way the world work?
It's the same kind of lingering shock the first time we are disappointed in love, the first time a friend or family member dies, the first time the world goes nuts with mass murder or natural disaster or rank corruption, the first time we learn of pilots smashing planes into mountains, the first time a flawed economic system throws us out of a job we thought we'd have for almost ever.
When I left those funeral services I thought I would write again about the preciousness of life and about how we must not waste it with mindless frivolity but, instead, must seek to live a life of service to others. All that's true, but instead of saying that again, I want to remind each of us to be gentle with one another because there's a strong likelihood that the people with whom we'll have contact this week are suffering some kind of lingering shock.
It's the way of the world. And one of the tasks of faith is to guide us to be a healing presence for the one in shock. For lingering shock is the human condition.
(The image above came from here.)
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AND WOULD HE HAVE CATHOLIC WOMEN WEAR A BURKE-A?
If you're gay or divorced or a murderer -- it's pretty much all the same to Archbishop Raymond Burke, formerly of St. Louis. Perhaps this is one more reason Pope Francis moved him into a do-nothing job. Yikes.
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P.S.: The annual KC AIDSWalk is coming soon -- April 25, and I'll be walking again. If you can pledge any amount, I'd really appreciate it, and so would the AIDS Service Foundation, which benefits from the walk. To make a pledge, just click here. And thanks.