Monday, March 10, 2014

When Life Falls Apart

I got a rare responsibility over the Christmas holidays. A final day in Albuquerque was part of our trip to visit family in New Mexico. My sister Vicki texted me in advance, wanting to know if I was willing to help her and our brother Jimmie do cleanup and maintenance on my mom’s home, which was on the market. Of course, I said, “Yes”, not because I’m so magnanimous, but because I knew they would never let me live it down if I declined. (Actually, I wanted to help; they both live close to mom and I’m often excused by distance for not being there in times like this.)

Anyway, Cathy and I loaded up that morning and followed Vicki over to the house, where we quickly were busy cleaning and repairing. That’s when they gave me the “privilege” of going through a closet of mom’s stuff. Someone needed to decide what to do with it and I, as the oldest, got the nod. (For those who don’t know, our mom is still very alive and healthy, but has moved into a retirement facility that she loves. The stuff still at her old house was left there for us to go through.) In this case, most of the “stuff” in the closet was old pictures; I was the one who went through them. That experience prompted this story.

One of those old photos was of a family who attended our church when I was a boy. During their several years in Socorro (my home town), their second son was one of my best friends. Glenn and I spent a lot of time together, often being allowed to go home with one another after church. His older brother Dennis was a couple of years our senior and thus “cool.” The family moved to Socorro with just the two boys, but God surprised their mom and dad with a pregnancy that ushered in a beautiful little girl.

It was a picture of Glenn’s parents and their little darling that awoke my memories of their story. One day the little girl got sick and had to be taken to the hospital. Glenn’s parents were fraught with distress over her condition, but no one imagined that the baby would suddenly die. A few years later, Glenn confided in me that someone had administered a wrong medication to the child. It was their family secret; in those days the idea of a lawsuit never entered the imagination. They were left with their fallen apart world. Not long after that, they moved to a city a few hundred miles away. I imagine that their grief felt more manageable in a place not associated with her death.

Glenn and I kept touch during high school. A few times he came to see me and we visited them once or twice when we were in their city. I remember the relief they felt when Glenn’s brother Dennis, who had gone into the military, got orders to Germany, rather than Viet Nam. Their parents wouldn’t have to worry about losing a second child…

…until the news arrived. Dennis was on liberty and was out boating on a lake nearby. He somehow fell off the boat and was caught by the propeller and killed.

My family attended his funeral. Glenn and I spent some time together that day and kept in touch for awhile, until we didn’t anymore. The horror and the grief I saw in his mom’s face that day has left an indelible imprint on my memory.

Almost a half century has passed since then. I have spent much of that time watching lives fall apart. Sometimes it has been my own or that of my family. How does a person get past “shattered?” That’s the question we hope to tackle as we begin our Easter series at Stone Ridge Church. The account of Jesus' last days of His earthly ministry is full of “shattered” stories. Some of them ended beautifully; others in disaster. If your life has fallen apart, this series is for you. If your friends are living in a shattered world, bring them along.

If you can’t catch us this weekend at Stone Ridge, you’ll find the podcast here!