A New Body
I say I "simply" loved her because it was simple. I loved her the first moment I saw her come to church on her husband's arm. I had an immediate reaction in my heart, kind of a shy recognition of real beauty, the way you feel as a little girl when you see a woman who strikes awe in your heart because she's just so pretty, she is the most beautiful lady you have ever seen, and you want to be just like her when you grow up.
But this was more than prettiness.
It was purity of spirit clothed in kindness and bright, humorous presence-- the kind of loveliness that you just don't see very often.
(One of my colleagues has this kind of loveliness. Her initials are PP. I feel the same way when I see her)
This lovely woman died last week, and she was in agonizing pain for much of her final days. Her hospital room was full of people who wrung their hands with grief and helplessness as the medical team tried to find some combination of drugs that would give her some relief. We wanted so badly to help her.
Her sister said yesterday at her memorial service that her suffering assaulted our faith.
I shuddered at the words, so there must have been great truth in them for me.
Last week I was reminded -- we are were -- that all the love in the world, even surrounding you in the tiny boat of your dying bed, even pouring in as God's holy spirit -- cannot endure the sufferings of your body for you, and cannot make the journey of the soul for you. We struggle alone no matter how held we are in care; no matter how surrounded we are by compassion. God abides with us, God does not live our lives for us.
But yesterday at the memorial service, as people queued up for Communion, I understood something for the first time. By becoming the body of Christ (or the Beloved Community), we can make whole what is torn asunder by violence, pain, the natural limitations of the body, human sin and fear.
I looked at the long line of patient people standing in line to receive the bread and the cup (and many who were there who chose not to partake, but were no less part of the Body) and I thought, "Sweetheart, here's your new body. Here's your new body."
And now the tears finally come.