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Days of Loss and Gratitude

  • Posted on Sep 5, 2011

We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away….Yet, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64: 6b, 8.

As we approach the tenth anniversary of September 11th, those of us on the East Coast have had some weeks to ponder our insignificance once again. To realize that we can only control so much in our lives. In the space of a week in Baltimore, we had a significant lightening storm followed by an earthquake followed by Hurricane Irene. The aftermath of Hurricane Irene left many of us without power for a few hours, days or even up to a week. In the silence and darkness of a powerless home, many of us were unsettled—as we were in the days after September 11th when flights were grounded and the heavens around us eerily quiet. 

It’s often said that “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”That is true on so many levels of life. The security of airports, flights, and national transportation in general. When the earthquake happened in Baltimore (and New York city), many office workers first thought was another terrorist event, not an event from the nature. We’ve lost some of our confidence in our national security to protect us from all disaster. But if we live long enough, we realize that there is only so much humanity (much less a government) can control. 

If we live long enough, all of us will lose someone we love to death. Relationships that we value come to an end. Our bodies betray us. So much of our advertising leads us to believe that we can outwit or out-think illness and death. Most of us know that this is the great denial strategy of our time. The day of the earthquake, our 13-year old German Shepherd died. The vet had told us that, at this stage of her life, every day was a gift. But it was easy to think she would defy all odds. In the last few months, she was just a bit slower. A lingering worry began to appear on the edge of my consciousness. That day, as we relaxed on the dock, she stood up and had a stroke. And in a few hours, she was gone, faded away like the wind. A great companion for our family now absent from us. The grief we all felt was intense. Home is awfully quiet now. Someone is missing and life is not the same.

In fact, each day of life is never the same. There are small losses and small gains each day. Some days hold more loss than others. As we approach the anniversary of September 11th, a day of national tragedy will bring forth feelings of shock, dismay, anger and sadness. Such is also true for Americans of a certain age when we come to late November and remember the day of John Kennedy’s assassination or early December and Pearl Harbor. But there is another feeling as we approach the anniversary of a great loss in our lives or in the life of our nation. There is the feeling of gratitude. Gratitude for the resilience to get up another day. Gratitude for family, friends and communities that support us in getting up that next day. Gratitude that somehow, some way, we have made it past the loss.

For many of us, our faith community is the foundational place where we give thanks for the blessing to rise another day and to rise another day enfolded in the love of God. This coming Sunday is Homecoming Sunday at Memorial Church—the Sunday we reconvene to celebrate the beginning of another program year in Christ. As we remember the grief and loss of September 11, 2011, we also remember that on that horrible day, Memorial Church gathered that very night as community—to pray for peace and be sustained by the sacrament of the Eucharist. As we have done Sunday after Sunday for ten years since…..and hopefully for many more. And all through these days and years, we are being molded through each loss and gain. We are all the work of God’s hands—and each molding, however painful or blessed, transforms us. 

Join us in gratitude at 10:30 am on Sunday, September 11 for a Festive Eucharist of word and song, including bagpipe, brass, choir and organ. As we join together, let us give thanks for another day, another day in the Lord together.