"Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come,
I have already come,
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home."
We each may have known that ominous ringing of a telephone--too early in the still darkness of a morning --the modern version of the knelling of a village's chapel bell--that stirs the heart with dread. Thursday morning, my niece so devastated she could barely talk, delivered the news of the death of her youngest brother, Matthew. Could it be any worse? Circumstances added extra agony to this story. After rehab and many weeks of being drug free, with the help and constant support of his devoted mother (my sister), his darling wife, and the joyous presence of their two year-old daughter, Matt faltered; it was a fatal lapse. After a frantic afternoon stretching into late night and a missing person's report, Matt was found slumped over in his car, dead from a drug overdose.
At his funeral yesterday, Father Wells led a Holy Conversation rather than delivering a sermon as part of the Burial of the Dead Rite I from the Book of Common Prayer. He stated that this sort of tragedy calls on each of us not to judge Matthew, but rather to understand that addiction is a terminal illness. It affects everyone, not just the user. It can be rigorously managed, but it is never cured. He reminded us too, that we must focus on the bright day represented by the banner (in the photo) which is draped over his coffin and know that he is now at peace, never to suffer the scourge of addiction again. He then invited anyone present to share a story or just thoughts on the life of Matthew. Many people spoke and told precious stories and made heartfelt comments. His wife stood, looked at the entire gathering and told us how he was a good, kind, and generous man who loved everyone present just as she knew we loved him. It was one the bravest acts I have witnessed in a long time.
After the service ended, Matthew's nephew, Zachary age 18, sang his very soulful and tender rendition of "Forever Young" by Bob Dylan. With that, we each made our first steps toward healing our many broken hearts.
'I borrow from Emily Dickinson when I say, it is the 'Hour of lead.'
However, it is this poem that best expresses the past few days spent with my family.
The bustle in the house
The morning after death
Is the solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth, -
The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not use again