“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort — we get a full measure of that, too.” — 2nd Corinthians 1:3-5 (MSG)
We are not built to handle death. When it is expected, as in a protracted illness, we can steel ourselves with the expectation of loss and grief. But when death comes suddenly, it takes our breath away.
Our little community of believers at Gather Church has been rocked by five deaths in the past couple of weeks, and we will never be the same. While we know and trust that lives in Christ never end, we who are left behind must deal with something that just does not fit.
On April 6, just two days after she was dedicated to the Lord by her parents, 3-week-old Raelynne Hussey stopped breathing and died in her sleep. Shawn and Amanda and their two young sons need your prayers.
Another couple from our church community, George and Michelle, gave birth to their son on April 7. Baby George had been diagnosed in utero with Edwards Syndrome and was not expected to live long outside the womb. His heart beat for just 15 minutes as Michelle held him.
Lester Thomsen, who was a regular at our Thursday evening meals, was hit and killed by a train in Centralia on April 2.
Andrea Dickey, the 23-year-old daughter of Officer Kevin Dickey, who is involved in Gather’s Into The Light recovery ministry, was killed in an auto accident April 8 in Seattle.
And we just learned that a body found a couple of months ago in the woods between Centralia and Chehalis was that of Sarah Candice, a woman who visited us regularly early last year.
We find ourselves devastated when sorrow upon sorrow enters our lives, and words fail us. We sob. We cry out.
“It tears me up inside,” my wife Marcia said, “like someone took a sharp weapon and gutted me, and I haven’t even been able to cry.
“God is talking to us about life being precious. We realize we don’t have any control. It’s up to God to decide who lives or dies.”
Grieving is a very individual thing, as each of us tries to grasp for some kind of reality. For some of the younger people at Gather, this is their first glimpse of this life’s end. Others of us have seen death up close, yet there is nothing familiar about it.
Grieving is also a community thing. In the past week, we have grown closer together than ever. We join in hugs and tears. We make sure the families are getting meals that they are in no shape to prepare. We change our schedules to meet each other’s needs. We listen, and we talk. And we are silent together.
And we pray. Pastor Cole said that last week seemed like a month, and with each step he has taken he has been keenly aware that people are praying.
Marcia and I learned how substantial prayer is when our grown son Joffrey was killed eight years ago. We could not have even breathed had it not been for God’s constant presence. He was down there with us, and our family and friends were, too.
Now many families are on the receiving end of loving and tearful prayer, on the receiving end of God’s intimate and infinite grace.
Things will never be the same. Understanding, if it ever comes at all, is far off. Compassion, though, is right here, right now. Love has been showered on this extended family, a family that includes those who hear the news through social media and respond with prayers through the Holy Spirit. We are not alone.
“When two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” — Matthew 18:20 (MSG)