Last night, I attended the funeral service of an old classmate. I hadn’t seen him in ten years and in fact, I can’t say I had a personal relationship with him but we were often around each other in groups of friends. Although he enjoyed playing the class clown, he had a gentle nature about him that contrasted against the brashness of his peers. He was a kind guy and I respected him.
Yet as I was getting ready, I was confronted by my unwillingness to go. I have been to two funerals in my life and for the first one, I was still untouched by personal loss. I was young and unaffected, perhaps inappropriately so, but I would not have to grapple with the finality of death until a few years later when the sudden loss of my grandmother—barely 60—threatened to still my own heart.
In contrast, I understood what my classmate’s death meant to the dozens who loved him yesterday. I understood that his departure from this world meant he took the hopes of his family and friends—for what would be—with him. And I knew I’d regret not going to pay my respects. Everyone’s taken different paths since high school but we belonged to each other then. We grew up in a tight community. Teachers still keep up with alumni, I see old classmates around town. This loss was the one of our own.
Although youth makes it all the more unnatural, I can’t say anyone’s departure will ever feel right on this side of heaven. I feel the most intimately acquainted with scripture when I consider that God’s original design was that we would not die. I won’t go into theological exegesis but for all of our ritual around the loss of a loved one, it appears that our hearts never reach the closure these formalities imply.
I believe the nature of our being on this earth is a weaving with others. Those who do try to resist it end up the most gnarled by their own closing off but when we accept the nature of our commonalities, we share the joys, memories, laughter, celebrations, and love. And we bear the damage when the fabric rips.
I’m praying for the Garcia family and the friends who knew Fabio far more closely than I ever did. In my card to his family, I wrote that I had lost contact with their son over the ten years since we graduated, but that he had a light within him I’d carry in memory for the rest of my life. Although the memory of those days will continue to dim, his impression on me never will. I thanked them for sharing him with us and looked in wonder at the packed room, half of this beloved person’s community standing because there simply weren’t enough chairs. Hearts knitting together over and over covering each other with comfort and prayer, braving to love again even as we wove along the tear.