Valentine's Day through the lens of grief
Faith and Culture:
“Help! Help us walk through this. Help us come through. It is the first great prayer.” - Anne Lamott, Help. Thanks. Wow. The Three Essential Prayers (Riverhead, 2012)
Happy New Year never really had a chance to unfold before I received one of those dreaded early-morning phone calls summoning me to the Foothills Medical Centre as fast as possible as there’d been a horrific automobile accident.
By the time I arrived, Cory Goertzen, a husband and father of five from our congregation had passed on to the next life.
What the Christian faith teaches is Cory’s gain is nevertheless a huge loss to his family, this community and our congregation. My loss, too, since he was far more to me than a parishioner.
He was a dear friend whose wisdom I had come to respect and anticipate over the years.
We enjoyed similar senses of humor, prided ourselves on driving old junkers, and held similar values arising from a growing disdain for many of the trappings of North American culture.
As a young man, Cory had visited India and Africa. The impressions left by the poverty he witnessed there never left him.
We’d trade stories and pictures from our sojourns to places like the slums of Mexico and the devastation of post-Katrina New Orleans.
Cory and I also often prayed together, asking God to make us faithful by lip and lifestyle in demonstrating to affluent Airdronians that life does not consist in the abundance of what we possess.
You will appreciate, therefore, that I presently find myself somewhere on the rack of Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief.
Actually, I’ve never experienced those five stages to be as distinct or progressive as some claim, so let’s just say that today I’m wallowing somewhere between denial and anger.
God’s goodness enabled me to function on some kind of a helpful auto-pilot so as to offer help and hope to those who attended Cory’s memorial service.
Nonetheless, somewhere over the years, I’ve learned that pastors are people too, which means, to cite the late Rich Mullins, “we are not as strong as we think we are.”
My anger stems from the circumstances of the mishap that claimed Cory’s life. For some reason… the other driver allegedly overlooked three large signs announcing the upcoming infamous intersection, four sets of rumble strips, and the flashing red light atop the actual stop sign. Initial indications are that alcohol was a factor.
A friend who is an occupational health nurse says that based on her experience she’d suspect drugs.
She has no shortage of hair-raising stories of the arrogance and defiance she regularly sees and hears from those who have drug abuse down to a science all the while continuing to drive as a part of their jobs.
Failing that, perhaps the accident was owing to the love affair we continue to demonstrate for a variety of electronic devices which fuels the stupid notion that that next phone call or text message we receive/send will forever alter the history of civilization. In the meanwhile, I’ll attempt to focus on more worthy objectives as I grieve.
Let us not use the frenzied pace of life we lead as an implicit excuse for failing to regularly tell our significant others how much we love them.
God forbid it takes Valentine’s Day to prompt us to let our sweetheart know the valuable role he or she plays in our lives.
Tim Callaway is pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org