I find that it is always unsettling when someone dies before they have had a chance to live a long life. It's even more upsetting when you have known this person as a friend and colleague.
Recently, I lost a friend who was a United Church Of Christ minister. He and his partner had been together for ten years. Surprisingly, my friend was quite sick and thus he expired in his early fifties.
Much too soon as he was just starting out in his ministry.
The drive from San Antonio to Houston, TX is over one hundred and fifty miles. Earmarked on this route are places like Schulenburg home of the Painted Churches, of Czechoslovakian immigrant descent. Just south of I-10 is the town of Shiner, home of the Shiner Bock brewery for real live Texas beer.
Further east you travel through the communities of Weimar and Columbus.
The former community has the distinction of being a place where in 1999 a drifter, who was described as being Psychotic, hopped off of a train and walked several blocks up to the Weimar United Church Of Christ and broke into the parsonage and bludgeoned to death the minister and his spouse. Years later, I would attend a Psychology conference and would hear a Psychologist from Houston who specialized in forensic expert witness testimony for criminal trials. This psychologist spoke to the assailant during a pre-trial interview. The psychologist stated the assailant commented on the fact that he was from Chile.
The assailant allegedly said:
"Oh those wines from Chile are so delicious."
With that, the psychologist said I think that we have a sociopath.
Every time, I drive by Weimar, I think of this vignette.
The memorial service for my friend was held in a local church in Houston, several clergy attended as well as friends of the immediate family. There were testimonials regarding my friend's Irish heritage. I was introduced to this wonderful concept " anam cura " which is the Celtic belief of souls connecting and bonding.
I did experience that with my friend. He has struggled with addiction. He had also worked hard at being the best minster that he could possibly be who happened to be Gay. I remember that my conversation with him and his partner, looking ahead to the career that they would experience in ministry , was hopeful and promising.
My friend, like other people, searched for a sense of " home coming, " going home. His theological sojourn traversed Catholicism, the United Methodist Church, Metropolitan Community Church and finally The United Church Of Christ.
I believe that right before his death he felt like that he had achieved coming home.
Good for him !
We all need to feel like we have been able to come " home again. "
As Elton John and Bernie Taupin remind us :
"We all dream of leaving, but wind up in the end
Spending all our time just to get back home again. "
Indeed, the memorial and celebration for my friend's life was special.
As I drove west back to San Antonio from Houston, I sat in backed up traffic, finally escaping a gaper's delay due to an accident. I drove past Weimar, said a prayer again for the deceased minister and his spouse.
I finally exited the freeway and headed west for my community, feeling grateful that I am alive and looking forward once again to pulling into the driveway and being " home again. "