Friday evening, I went to the funeral visitation for the father of one of my El Crucero girls. Two friends and I had already visited this child’s grandmother earlier in the week, where we had sat, drinking the cold water we had been handed and listening (via translation) to the grandmother’s grief. Her husband had passed away only 4 short months ago, and now her son, the baby of her 7 grown children–was gone, too.
It is too much.
Our young friend, the daughter of the deceased, wasn’t there. We don’t see her until we get to the funeral home. When we arrive, she is surrounded by cousins. Her little brother is coloring and seems unconcerned by the weight of the event. All of the children are in the front room of the funeral home, avoiding the specter of death in the room behind them. I avoid it, too, staying with the children, meeting the ones who are new to me, talking with a couple of their mothers.
It is the most somber visitation I have ever attended. I also come from a large family and have attended many viewings. They have always been one part tears and one part laughter. This visitation is missing the laughter.
This is our 3rd child to lose a father this year –2 to death and 1 to deportation.
Somehow that doesn’t seem normal to my experience. Elementary school and middle school children shouldn’t lose their parents on such frequency.
I often forget that there are aspects of my El Crucero children’s lives that are outside of my experience. The more time I spend with them, the more I forget. I see their joy and their squabbles. I hear their chatter about school and parents and dreams, and it all seems so normal and predictable. . .
Until I get a jolting reminder that many of my children deal with circumstances that should never be considered normal:
A child will ask for an extra bag of chips at the end of church on Sunday and tell me that our evening snack is the first food she’s had all day. Another child will privately tell us about the man who has been arrested because he did something to her he shouldn’t have. At homework help, a conversation about crushes will morph into an enumeration of which of our 7th-grade boys smoke pot.
Somehow, I always feel blindsided by these proofs of what is wrong with our world. Every time.
But I’m also perpetually discovering the beauty of loving well in hard places. Wherever pain and loss and lack is present, we have an opportunity to plant a seed of beauty. . . a seed of grace, a seed of hope, a seed of community.
This week my heart is heavy for a beautiful family’s loss, but it is also encouraged by the ways I’ve seen our El Crucero community rally to be a physical expression of Jesus to this family–through significant donations to the burial fund and a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, yes; but most especially through presence and connection.
I am increasingly realizing that every ugly, scary, painful situation around us is an opportunity to plant a seed of beauty. To stand in solidarity. To offer what help we have to give–a meal, a ride, a hug, a smile, a listening ear, a sincere prayer….
Of course, it is so much easier not to reach out into someone else’s pain, but these seeds can only be planted by pulling up our sleeves and getting down into the dirt. Being present in a dark place hurts. But choosing to do so out of love for another is a holy experience. Such choices connect us to each other and to God.
Be a seed planter.