Leaving April 23, 2011

Thank you all for your prayers for my family and for my grandfather. I’m so glad we were able to hop a last-minute flight out here and be with the rest of my family. There’s something about the passing of a patriarch that draws us all together.

At the funeral, the pastor recounted the names of all the children my grandfather was survived by, and their children, and their children. I’ve known these names my whole life; I count myself among them. We are his legacy on this earth. And yet, for the first time, I realized how truly amazing that is. Six children. Eleven grandchildren. Seven great-grandchildren. All of us here, all of this made possible, because my grandfather grew up, in that tiny West Texas town, loving my grandmother. Because he never left her, never strayed, because he stayed by her side for sixty-seven years of marriage.

I’m so grateful to them. It was strange, after the burial, leaving him there. Before that there was so much to be done. He was still very much with us, in a way, as my mother and my grandmother and my aunts and uncles prepared for his funeral, made arrangements for his burial, selected pallbearers, worded the funeral announcement, chose the hymns to be sung. And then, after the burial, suddenly it was done. We all walked toward our cars and got in them and left, without my grandfather. We drove away and he remained, asleep in the ground, and we went on to a new chapter of our lives, the first chapter that didn’t include him.

That was when it became real for me. Driving away. Going to my grandmother’s house and knowing that he wouldn’t be waiting, nearly blind and nearly deaf in his wheelchair but still longing to talk to us, still sharp enough to remember exactly what the Ogre is studying, still mispronouncing Liam’s name but wanting me to hold Liam close so he could feel my boy’s small, chubby hand on his face.

There was something of that same sensation leaving Mass last night. We left in silence, a silence predictably broken by a few oblivious parishioners, and the big Texas sky which had been pink and orange when we entered was dark when we walked back out underneath it. We left, and Christ was still on his cross. Joseph hadn’t taken him down yet, he was there, alone, hanging limply under a black sky for us. And we turned our backs on him and walked away.

We return tonight in joy, in love and hope and gratitude, but we do not forget the cross. We do not forget that for all the joy of the resurrection, there was still the misery of the passion. And each moment that I have turned away from Christ is lying heavily on my soul today. How I wish that I could console him in his pain, but instead I have added to it.

How weak we are. How broken. How desperately we need him.

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