Burial of the Dead – Anna Bennett
November 8, 2017
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Sometimes in life we feel like things are so bad we just can’t take anymore. For most of us those feelings run themselves out in a relatively short period of time. There is an abiding grace and goodness in life that absorbs those times of despair and somehow we regain our footing and are enabled to move on. As we reflect on those times of despair and recovery, we realize that the reason we were able to move on actually had very little to do with any great action on our part. The despair somehow just lightened enough so that we could see something other than darkness. “What do I do?”, we sometimes ask when we are in that despairing place. “I really don’t know,” I have found myself saying. “Just take deep breaths and put one foot in front of the other for a while.” As we do that, grace and goodness somehow become the air we breathe and the ground we walk on. We haven’t solved anything. The reasons for despair are still there. But we come to see that despair and darkness are accompanied by something lighter. And we move on. The despair doesn’t go away altogether but it is revealed to be lesser than grace and goodness. For most of us those times, as difficult as they are, don’t last longer than we can endure.
But for some those times keep repeating themselves and the darkness seems to have overtaken grace and goodness. I’ll admit that I don’t exactly know what that feels like. I can only take the despair that I have felt in the past few days and magnify it. I have the benefit of having been thrown into the pit of despair any number of times with other people and my own struggles and my experience is that the pain eases enough for me to continue. But I have known and loved a number who have not been able to make it through those times. Perhaps if they could have just been able to breathe and put one foot in front of the other for one more day that darkness would have lifted enough for them to move on. But they couldn’t. I know what a little despair feels like. We all do. For some it’s too much.
Anna was a bright little star. So much love brought her here from across the globe and she brought light to many of us with her sparkle and compassion and sass. One day when she was about 6 or 8 she was at the altar rail receiving communion and a little light popped on in her head as I approached her with the bread. It was like she had figured out how the hierarchy around here works. She looked up at me and said, “You’re the boss.” I whispered, “I wish you’d you tell everybody else that.” Not only did she have times when she really knew grace and goodness, she also helped us see it. But she struggled with the darkness off and on. Friday morning things got so dark she couldn’t put one foot in front of the other and we are all broken. Maybe that gives us compassion for her and for others who have been there as we ourselves feel overwhelmed and wonder how we will go on without her. All we have right now is questions without too many answers. We do have our faith and hope.
In those times of despair we face, as we just breathe and put one foot in front of the other, we come to find that grace and goodness become our air and our ground. We don’t solve the despair in life but we come to find that something bigger absorbs it. That grace and goodness proves itself to be bigger than our despair. We come to know that we don’t solve the despair. Something else does. Something else comes to carry us.
That is our hope and that is our faith with Anna and with all those whose despair has become so great that they could not endure. As grace and goodness have carried us, grace and goodness will carry Anna. Despair is not ours to solve. Our faith and hope is that despair for all will be absorbed by the grace and goodness we know in the way God reveals himself. How we perform and what we accomplish on our own means little in the face of grace and goodness. It carries us when we are strong and it carries us when we are weak. It carries us when we are alive and it carries us when we are dead. It carries us when we know it is there and it carries when we have no idea where it is or what it is. Grace and goodness absorb despair. It will do that for Anna and it will do that for us.