Death As A Teacher

Death is not all that complicated.

It may be a long watch, when we deal with illness or injury. 
It may come suddenly; it may take us by surprise.
Regardless,there is no doubt that we all know it awaits. Each and every one of us is headed int the same direction, the same end. This mortal life will cease and we cross into that place that remains a mystery to all who walk this earth.

Death, then, is fair. We all get there. No one escapes, regardless of the imbalances we encounter while living. 
Death is fair, and it is a most appropriate teacher. And we learn, as we move through what remains. 
Mourning and grief; these are complicated things. Those left behind – we do all we can to make sense of it, to seize the day and reevaluate life in light of the shadow of death. It doesn’t flinch, it does not draw back; it is what it is, and it is final.
Today, I wore the role of ‘pastor’ in a way that is not unfamiliar and yet not without great reverence and respect. I officiated the funeral of a friend, a fellow musician. And I cannot help but reflect upon this experience, even considering why it has such resonance and power in me even now, hours later. I’m a pastor; that’s what pastors do, right? Weddings, funerals, Sunday services; we represent the presence of God where needed or expected. It’s not that complicated.
But for me, it is never simple. When I wear this hat I am always, constantly, aware of my lack of qualifications. And it’s not just the basic human insecurities of whether or not I’m good enough – it’s a larger thing, one that carries, for me, the immensely serious and powerful responsibility of this role. Not that I think I’m all that – I don’t. It’s precisely because I’m not all that – not much more than a mom, a wife, a teacher, a musician who is forever indebted to the brilliant and life-changing power of God and the larger-than-life truth of Jesus. I am confident that God called me into service, but there is tremendous weight in the office of pastor. My expectations are high. 
So I tread lightly. I prayed, and I dug deep. I wrote words and walked away and came back to edit again. I had the great privilege of taking an entire day to contemplate the life of a specific human – his legacy and the imprint he left on the world – and to consider what it would mean to represent the presence of God as we gathered to celebrate his life. 
And then we met today, and the God who says I will never leave you or forsake you was true to His word, and He was with me, and the certainty of the words I’d written rang with rich, vivd power in my own heart. Something clicked within me, something about the presence of God and the gift of human presence and a half-century of life and the beginning of wisdom, coupled with the reverence of the Holy One.
My friend, Craig; we will miss your presence. Your smile and your constant encouragement live on, even today, with the honor of standing in front of those who love you, refusing presumption, welcoming the companionship of the One with whom you walk, right now, on the other side of this life. Thank you for this last gift, brother. 
I will hold it carefully.
Craig Butler RIP

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