This afternoon I sat in an old country church with my twelve year-old grandson, Cameron. Mom and Dad are out-of-town so they asked me to take him to the memorial service for the father of his classmate and hockey teammate. We arrived at the 150-year old white church almost 25 minutes early thinking we would be too early. As we approached the church, we had to slow down; cars on both sides lined the narrow road. People were walking quickly to get closer to the warmth. It was only 20 degrees and the wind was biting. There were few trees and no buildings to block the wind and drifts from blowing snow made the road even more treacherous.
We stood in line outside the church for what seemed an eternity. The cold was unforgiving. I dressed warmly but Cam not so much. It’s hard to convince a 12-year old to dress appropriately. Understandably, he refused the offer of my bright red scarf and gloves. Instead, we huddled together while we waited. My guess is the church probably accommodates about 200 people comfortably. Today, though, there were what looked like almost 500 people trying to enter the warm, sacred space. I couldn’t help but notice how many young adults and small children attended this memorial service. It didn’t seem right to me.
Cam’s friend, Alec, is the middle child of three; he has an older sister who is 13 or 14 and a younger sister who looked about 9. There were no calling hours. Alec’s dad took his own life tragically earlier this week. No matter the circumstances, I am never able to comprehend the depth of despair people must feel to make such a choice.
His oldest daughter selected Robert Frost’s memorable poem as a reading:
Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
After the poem, “Hey Jude,” by the Beatles played, a special song shared by father and daughter.
Biblical readings followed and eulogies were given. We sang “Amazing Grace,” and “Hymn of Promise.” The closing song was a beautiful Irish blessing to the tune of “O Danny Boy,” entitled, “O Loving God.” It was a reverent and gentle way to put closure to this man’s absolute despair. There were three special moments for me during all of this.
The first was the sound of an old clock during the homily. I looked around at all the children who sat quietly not uttering a sound, their little faces serious and reverent. The second was near the end of the homily when the Pastor said, “whenever darkness and light meet, light always wins.” It really resonated with me. The third and most touching moment was after the service. The ushers asked those of us who were in the temporary front seats to move to the sacristy area so the family could leave first. Cam and I walked to the back and waited. First came Mr. R’s parents and then his children and their mom. Although there was no formal receiving line, I extended my hand to offer condolences to the parents and family. Suddenly Alec saw Cam and a big smile crossed his face. He came right up and the two of them were face to face in what felt like slow motion. Alec started to raise his arms to embrace Cam but the awkward moment passed. Cam stood there sheepishly. They said “hi” to one another. Alec said he was glad Cam was there. Cam said, “this is my grandmother.” And there it was. A beautiful moment, a moment I want to record for Cam.
We drove home along the shore of Lake Ontario. The sky to our left, over the lake was dark and foreboding. To our right, blue patches and brilliant sunshine peeked through the disseminating clouds. Cam and I talked about it and about a lot of other things too. We talked for a good long time. I thought about the Pastor’s words, “whenever darkness and light meet, light always wins.” He was right.