It seems that the end-of-year holidays cause more of a focus on loss and change; we are more sensitive regarding the passing of time, the coolness of the days and nights, and deaths--any deaths. It seems that our nerve endings are more raw in December. Or maybe it is just me.
National Public Radio ran a story that was worth sharing tonight. I tend to think that NPR often runs stories that are worth sharing, but that is beside the point. This was in reaction to the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut a week ago--wait, don't change the channel yet, hear me out--from the perspective of a dad whose two sons, his and his wife's only children, were killed in a car accident. It was entitled "When Someone You Know Loses A Child." Go read it...better yet, connect to the audio and hear it directly from the dad.
Loss is all around us. I stopped at a store to grab some supplies for this ministry thing we are doing tomorrow and as I approached the store I was approached by a young man with a small jar in his hand. "Excuse me, ma'am, but would you consider donating to help us bury my cousin?"
I got a little cash after guiltily swiping my debit card in the store and approached him as I had promised, as chipper as I could be. I smiled and asked about his deceased relative, who had died on December 18 (it was not lost on me that this young man had died on my husband's birthday, that his birthday was listed as having been in 1988); he shared that his cousin was a provider, that he died of a brain tumor, that he was too young to go ("Everybody said so," he shared. "He should not have gone so soon. This should not have gotten him so early. Fifty years old, maybe, but not now."), that "they want to burn him but we need a casket and so that is why I am out here."
We had a brief conversation about God knowing best, me saying it and him agreeing that God must have called him. Shared God-bless-you's and I slunk to my car which was about to whisk me to McDonald's, where I was to again gultily swipe my debit card for dinner.
And then I went into the McDonald's, close on the heals of a woman carrying in about three "hot and ready" pizzas. Into the McDonald's. As I ordered, I could hear a murmur that sounded like a party. I saw a man carrying a coffee maker. A big one. And there were the children, and women holding babies. And gift bags. And McDonald's food. Alongside the pizzas.
I saw happy little children, thrilled at the prospect of french fries. And pizza. And hand-holding with their parents on the way to the soda fountain. And no sadness. And no apparent loss.
But down the street, a young man stood in the darkening dusk outside a store, praying to get enough change, dollars, and larger denomination bills to bury his cousin who, although probably called by God, got the summons too soon.
And I drove home with my debited fast food, listening to NPR, and thought of him. And the pizza-eating McDonald's party people. And the families in Newtown. And my friend who celebrated her birthday today. And Christmas. And family. And loss. And change.