Grace in a Brighter Season

A new book—ANCHOR & FLARES! Was launched on Tuesday, with an excellent party thrown at Belfast’s Left Bank Books.

Friends, family and, most touchingly, a couple of folk whom I first encountered in the midst of tragedy, as the chaplain called when someone they could not bear to lose was lost to them.

A sudden loss isolates a moment from the flow of time. Though time resumes (unwelcome resumption!) the memory of that moment and all that it contained remains inscribed within ones mind, the hard bright line that separates “before” and “after.”

Present at the scene of an accident, a suicide, or homicide I represent God’s love and the human love that waits just beyond the horizon of a tragic hour, familiar arms outstretched. it is my privilege to serve as a proxy for the ones who love and don’t yet know, to be with the bereaved on behalf of those too far away to hold and console.

And I am there as an embodied promise: love not just was but is. “Soon, soon, your friends and family will arrive, bringing food to share with shared grief and then you will hear your lost beloved’s name, sounding as it sounds only when spoken by a mouth familiar with its shape. You will be with the ones who can remember him—literally, re-member, with their stories bringing the lost one back into membership among those who knew and loved him. All the strangers— game wardens, paramedics, volunteers, and the chaplain—will clear the scene, once you are with the two or three or more who, when gathered, really can provide the sense of Presence that you need.

At the scene of a tragedy, I am not enough and I know it. I depend very heavily upon grace.

And here was grace! WinterChaplain

On Tuesday evening, there were the mourners, the first moment of their grieving having flowed into a year, two years, three years. Somehow my presence at the scene of their loss was not just recalled, but had been translated into a wider sense of shared community; ah yes! Kate Braestrup! I know her. She was with me on that day.

How good it was to see these lovely souls again; upright, smiling and willing to seek out the chaplain who had been there as the hard bright line was drawn, and by their presence invite me to step across it with them so we could be together here and now.

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