Last Wednesday, I told a score of people or more that they were going to die. “You are dust,” I reminded them, “and to dust you will return.” And I marked their faces with ash.
In the line was my youngest child. She knelt near the centre of the altar rail, and we shared a brief smile. She was just off-centre enough that I felt justified moving away and leaving my rector to mark her face, to remind her of her mortality. We both know it, but I was grateful not to speak those words to my daughter. A mother should offer life, not death to her children, no?
On Saturday, I walked the Stations of the Cross at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland. A priest and artist, the Reverend Thomas Faulkner, had interpreted the stations through sculptural installations; shocking, visceral, prayer-provoking. The penultimate station places the body of Jesus in the arms of his mother. Above the old stone font a photograph of a famine-stricken mother in a USA t-shirt cradled a starving, dying child. Underneath, around the font were piled soft, fat pillows dressed in white. On Sunday mornings, the children play there. They climb on the wall where photograph hangs, and peep through the open stonework at the people in the nave. They clamber around the font to see the stones from the River Jordan in its basin. Their voices carry.
Looking at that mother and her child, who is surely now dead, looking at Mary’s heart broken, the space was haunted by those living children, ghost images delighted at the discovery of the soft, fat, white pillows.
The following day, I was back at Trinity to pick up my daughters, son, goddaughter, their friend from Happening. One of my former Sunday School students greeted me with a warm hug. These young people were overflowing with love, joy, hope and faith. They were spilling it over one another, baptizing one another in friendship and fellowship found.
This morning, that student’s local high school is on the news for all the wrong reasons. Pain, anger, sorrow and blood were spilled there
Please pray for the child who has died. Please pray for his family. Please pray for those injured and their families. Please pray for those who would hurt others out of their own pain or any other reason; may God touch and turn their hearts.
Please pray for all our children: the living and the dying; the beloved and the hopeless; the joyful and the fearful; the hungry and the satisfied; and pray for their mothers and fathers, too.
*A second death was confirmed early this morning, Tuesday February 28th, and a third later the same day. May light perpetual shine upon the boys who lost their lives; may their loved ones be comforted. May God bless and keep the community of Chardon in its time of suffering.