Tag Archives: memorial

Observing and Remembering Grief


On September 11, 2001, and for some time thereafter, Americans observed and experienced the grief of individuals and a nation. Now, ten years later, we observe and remember it anew–whether our own or the grief of strangers.

If you caught any of the television coverage you probably saw family members reading the names of the dead or tracing the names of loved ones carved into the memorials at ground zero. These images are both beautiful and heartrending, especially those of the children who are growing up without a parent. Or, you may have watched some of the surviving firefighters and police officers tell of their struggle to breathe or to fight the cancer that is likely the result of breathing in the toxic dust as they dug in the pit without proper protection.

As the names and ages scrolled across my television screen, I noted how many were so young, hardly even into the prime of their lives. Though I lost no one in my family or circles, I feel some small portion of the grief families continue to feel and am glad they have a beautiful place to go to remember their dead. Remembering the dead with ceremonies, markers, and moments of silence is an important part of living and grieving well. It is an active means to recall who we are (whether individual or nation), what we are, and where we are headed. As a people, we tend to do funerals pretty well. We recall someone who has died and how they influenced our lives. And, we endeavor to keep a part of their legacy alive in how we live our own lives.

I think these kinds of memorials have the opportunity to do the same thing.

But, and this takes nothing away from our collective grief, I am also aware that so many around the world die in obscurity without even the dignity of a thoughtful burial, with no one remembering their life or death. This is especially true in war-torn, impoverished areas. One militia erases the village of an opposing faction. Most are killed, a few survive by escaping into the bush or forest. The dead range from infants to elderly. They are left to be raided for any remaining goods, picked over by wild dogs, and whatever bones are found are later bulldozed into a mass grave.

In the West we may hear of these deaths and shake our heads at the senselessness of human atrocity. But distance and disconnect with other parts of the world rarely cause us to rise up as a nation and observe (stop if possible) and remember the grief of others.

One such arena of senseless and invisible slaughter happened in DRC. Bryan Mealer gives you an inside look at suffering and death and the desperate attempts of many Congolese to stay alive during the great African war. What I noticed was how little time there was to remember and grieve. Remembering is done by those who do not fear for their safety.

So, as we remember our own grief, let us also recall and remember those victims who get no grave nor remembrance.

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The death of an old but lost friend


Last night I was cleaning out my nightstand and saw an email from an old friend which had his current address on it and a sarcastic note telling me that it was the second time he was sending me his snail-mail address and that I ought to put it somewhere safe. It made me laugh–and then want to connect with him again. So, I did what most of us might do, I googled him and found, sadly, that he had died 1 year ago!

You might be able to tell we weren’t that close of late. In fact, we were close only for a short time. I met him in college and we became instant friends. He had an intensity and sarcastic humor that I loved and dreaded. Time with him was never dull. He taught me about great food and about the downtrodden. I think when I met him he was fighting for the imprisoned pastors in Russia.

Actually, I had met himĀ in the sandbox as a kid in Nova Scotia (those of you reading this blog for a while may remember the previous banner pic of an oceanview, practically taken from the sandbox). So, we hit it off well as college students–until I offended him 2 years later. I think he didn’t speak to me for at least a year (I kicked him out of my room at 2 am when he wanted to tell me all about a breakup). A year later we were both in Israel for school and so we tried, mildly successfully to rekindle our friendship. Another year later we were both in Philadelphia and had a few good times. He introduced me to my lovely wife.

But then our relationship soured as he became increasingly angry. He left the area, even the country and we had little contact. He was involved in underground work to elevate the plight of Palestinians to the American people. He came out of the closet. When he found out I married Kim without inviting him, he never really forgave me. I should have but I assumed we were on the outs and he wasn’t even in the country.

We tried to find a way to relate despite his complete rejection of Christianity and even antagonistic attack of everything he once stood for. I think we did alright at first but then it faded away.

This man was the brightest, most eloquent, critical thinker I’ve ever known. His bitterness had an impact during the time I knew him but I’m hoping he overcame that. But, I’m saddened at the loss of his fight for the downtrodden and his persistent belief that true Christianity was to be rejected as always and only fake. I think he was able to separate bad examples of Christianity from Christianity itself but I”m not sure.

I wish I could have just one more conversation and to enjoy a good laugh with him.

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