Friday, June 13, 2014

small infinities, balloons, and losing the young ones we love

Another shooting, another round of deaths, and yet we are still so fresh from the last, the scab is still itchy. Life is precious, fragile and fleeting it seems and the bitterness of death feels heavy around us. Heavier still is the feeling when the death finds someone so young. There are no words in those moments, no comfort in the immediate aftermath. It's hard to think of those that are young as being welcomed in to heaven, when they are ripped so forcefully from the rest of us, with no gentle goodbyes, no full, long life stories. We are left stunned and numb, with nerves newly sliced that have momentarily forgotten how to feel. 

In those moments the only comfort that can come, days, weeks and months later is of the time we have had, the precious gift of our memories. No matter how small, how short lived, we had those moments, we had that gift. John Green says it so very well in The Fault in Our Stars “There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There's .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I'm likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.” Green captures in that wonderful book the pain of loss for one so young, but the joy in sharing life with that person, the joy that surpasses the brevity of their life. It is painful, it is tragic to say goodbye so early, but it was a tremendous gift to have the small infinity. 

Three years ago, we lost someone. Three years ago tomorrow, we lived one of the worst days of our lives, as we gathered as youth leaders to tell the students that we loved, that we had lost one of our own, so suddenly it didn't seem real, it just wasn't possible. Not that boy, not the one that was so sweet, so funny, whose eyes sparkled still with childlike mischief and new love. We told them, and watched in an instant their hearts broke, their lives changed forever, as ours were changing as well. Then we wrapped our arms around his mom and his sister. We sat in disbelief for days. In those days, it was only in remembering the small infinities with him, that we found comfort, that the knife in our gut was less noticeable. 

It was hard in those days to see God sometimes, to understand the words that tell us he is only good, only just, only righteous. It was hard to understand why he couldn't or wouldn't stop this, why he had welcomed him home, instead of sending him back to us. It was in the small infinities that we saw God too, as our bitterness turned to gratefulness, for even getting to be a part of the life of this boy. All I could think of was balloons, those toys I hated letting my children have. I knew a balloon would bring brief joy, but too brief. Soon it would be floating off into the sky or popping with a bang, and then there would be tears, and blame and anger. So I could choose to deprive them, to not let them have that moment of joy, to save us all from the pain, that might last longer. God could have spared us from ever sending him to us, and spared us that pain, but he didn't. He let us have those moments, small as they may be in comparison to others. He chose to give us the joy instead.

Tomorrow it's an anniversary, of that day, that day we found out you were gone Cam. It's an anniversary of the day we found out we would have to live with the absence of your presence, we would be starved for new moments, and would have to feast only on our memories. It was the worst, but you were the best. So as we rip the scab off all over again, and revisit those darkest of moments, you shine a light in the midst. Your stories are told over and over again. A whole new generation of kids has invaded the open door and they know you. They see your plaque and they ask, and we tell them our favorite stories, we tell them how you filled this building once with your love as you invited all of your friends. "They will come back for us", is said so often. When a pillow fight, or foam noodle fight breaks out, I can't even look the others in the eye, because in those moments my heart swells with happiness, and my eyes well up. Your body may be absent, but you are still there. I love you Cam Cam.

As we mourn those we have lost, no matter how long we were able to enjoy them, we find our hope, we find our thankfulness, and we learn to live with the small infinities we were given.

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