Death is a painful reality of this world. Sometimes it sneaks up on us and catches us by surprise. Other times we see it coming in the slow darkness falling over loved ones as they struggle for each breath in their last months with us. Either way, death shocks us. It feels terribly wrong, like we were never meant for this.
A year ago, the horrible events of a morning brought a day where we desperately wished for the routine, the typical. But the routine was gone, obliterated by the ever-present images, voices, and commentary. We stared at the massive flames, the crashing planes, and the sight of people falling or jumping to their deaths. In my office, we tried to work, if only to distract ourselves. We spoke in hushed voices of stunned disbelief.
We learned that people had come to our country, lived in the midst of us and our freedoms, and abused them in order to hurt others. The questions came: What kind of person would think to do this kind of evil? Why would they want to hurt us? How can we help those in need?
It’s a paradox: in the midst of seeing this tragic hatred unleashed, we also saw beautiful sacrifice and love demonstrated. It seems to me that this is always the choice we face. Expressed the most simply, we can use our freedom to love or to hate. And our choices can greatly impact others.
In response to the death and destruction, we pray and mourn, and care for those that have lost their family and friends. In the funeral hymn of the Orthodox Church we sing “Memory Eternal” As James Ferrenberg explains, this is not just to remind us, but that Christ will remember those who have died. As they were being crucified together, the wise thief begged Christ to remember him when he came into his kingdom. Christ replied that he would be with him in Paradise. Memory Eternal!