Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Graceful Goodbyes

Graceful Goodbyes

By Tom Wachunas

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4: 14)

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16: 33)

Sometimes I think that both the happiest and the saddest words in Scripture are in Genesis. The happiest, in 1:3: And God said, “Let there be light,”… The saddest, only two chapters later in 3:9 : But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

For various reasons and on various levels I will remember this summer as one of departures, separations, fragilities; and amid such vicissitudes, the need to keep my priorities in order. I was reminded of these things – powerfully, poignantly – during the July 6 memorial celebration of the life of Anthony P. DiGiacomo at St. Stephen Martyr Church.

I did not know Anthony, having met him only briefly on one or two occasions. But I know his wife, Lois – one of our community’s most present and ebullient arts champions. In the course of the service there were several tender acknowledgements of her orchestration of the proceedings, prompting one of the speakers to jokingly refer to it as a theatre event that might be reviewed by The Repository. While the occasion was artfully presented, to dwell too much on the merely esthetic accoutrements would be a terribly misplaced attention on my part. Still, Lois, along with her pastor, Rev. Dr. Bruce Roth, and other friends and family, brought all their sensibilities and gifts – artistic and otherwise - to the fore in directing our attentions to a life lived in faith and love. A life that clearly impacted many, many people. A life not ended, but joyously relocated.

Of course, then, this isn’t a review. It’s a thank you note to Lois. Thank you for being married to Anthony for 49 years. For walking beside him and not behind him. For your children and their children. For savoring the light that brings faith, the faith that builds perseverance, the perseverance that builds character. For sharing the reason for your hope, and in that, your courage and unselfishness.

For the remainder of the evening after the service, and even as I write this, another verse - the shortest in the Bible - has been resonant in my heart, John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” The Lord of the Universe, in a moment totally surrendered to his humanity, cried. But his was and is a complete, realized humanity. He knew exactly where he and Lazarus were in eternity. I often think he was mourning more than the earthly passing of his friend and the pain it brought to those who loved him. He was grieving for the fragility of our vision and faith, and how easily we forget the plan behind our immortality. It is in fact a joyous plan.

So again, thank you, Lois, for your loving reminder of that plan and all of our places in it. Here’s to the day when ALL of us hear not “Where are you?” but, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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