Recently I attended the funeral of a young man who spent the last nineteen years of his life as a quadriplegic. He was confined to his power equipped chair. He learned to operate it with the little hand motion he still possessed. He even learned to drive a van. Crippled as a teenager as the result of an accident, he went on to earn a college degree and to teach school for a semester. He wrote incredible poetry and compassionate letters to friends who needed encouragement. He did all of these positive activities while being confined to his chair, which he called his cage. He was in constant pain, subject to a variety of illnesses, and knew emotions from depression to thanksgiving for the gift of life.
At the funeral the priest giving the sermon referred to our need to untangle the tangles. Were we to be grateful that the departed is now free from his cage of pain and illness; or do we mourn the loss of one loved and admired for his brilliance, perseverance, compassion, and generous spirit?
His parents and sister loved him for every reason, and found themselves laughing as they remembered good times together — in between tears. How does one untangle complicated relationships filled with joy, sorrow, care giving, pain, and even hope?
These same emotions can be part of our lives in complicated relationships. Perhaps you or a friend found relief at the end of a divorce; but memories of good times remind one of the loss. And when a daughter is married, where will the third family sit at the wedding? There is traditionally a groom’s side and a bride’s side. Are two sides needed just for the bride’s families?
The stress of a lost relationship is most likely to occur with the death of a spouse. If this was your experience, were you so attached to your spouse that you are not certain who you are now? What will your identity be in the days ahead?
Each situation is different, and untangling the tangles can take a long time. With some losses we never heal, just manage to move forward one step at a time.
For my young friend who died his comfort came from knowing Jesus in the predicament and pain of Jesus’ death. “Today you will be with me in paradise,” Jesus said. In the
pain and suffering there was still hope and a way to live life with thanksgiving before joining the heavenly hosts.
How we face our nightmares in daily life is a test we’d like to avoid. But some must meet these challenges. And some do it so well that they leave a blessed legacy of how to live and how to die. For my friend a large congregation gave thanks for a courageous, kind, and compassionate life well lived. In our challenges to untangle the tangles, may God’s love support and uphold us in our issues of living and dying.