Sunday, February 24, 2008

Of Sons

This morning, my heart was heavy as I headed to church. A former neighbor of mine, I learned yesterday, was mourning the loss of her 19-year-old nephew, killed the night before in a car crash near his home. The son of one of my best friends from childhood is in his seventh week at boot camp at Parris Island. He wants to drive a tank. Another friend tries to work through her son's drug addiction. My own son just turned 21 a few weeks ago; already he's lost two friends, one to a wreck, the other to drugs. Good boys, good families all, families who have brought their sons up to have faith in God and  hope for making a mark on the world.

I knelt in prayer for all of these sons of ours, some whose lives are so filled with promise, others cut short of knowing what that promise could be. Praying that God wrap his arms around all of these parents, comforting them in their losses, in their worries, and providing them with hope for their sons in the middle of all their uncertainties.

Then I sat, opening the bulletin to find that for our prelude, we would have guest bell ringers, a group of moms and dads, all of whom have lost children, but who have used their commonality to seek solace in the music, and in reaching others as they perform.

Among them was a member of our parish who lost her son 11 years ago at 21, in a college fire that is now legendary in North Carolina. She has channeled her grief into a crusade for sprinkler systems in college residences, traveling around the country, speaking before Congress. And she rings the bells.

I wept as she and the other parents rang their beautiful notes, their arrangement of "Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace," filling them — and the church — with such joy, as they honored the children who no longer sit at their supper tables. Two families who had lost two children each — two — a situation incomprehensible to me. My friend — pregnant with her third child due in a month — sat next to me and wept, too, the quiet grief of mothers who know that our tether to our children is so tenuous. We watched, as the mothers and fathers in our midst drew themselves through their grief and into that joy that surpasses all understanding, drawing us with them, until our hearts felt full, too.

Later, when my son called home for his weekly check-in, I found myself wanting to reach through the phone, tighten the tether, as close as he would allow. wtmch