We brought many bags with us to Cameroon, filled with clothes and kitchen stuff and yarn and not enough towels. Yet, the old cliche about invisible baggage being the heaviest rings true: today marks the first anniversary of my brother's death in a mountain climbing accident in Peru. Ben was a World traveler who had lived abroad and loved to meet people and experience new cultures. He was planning to visit us here in Cameroon (or wherever we were to be assigned.)
The last time we saw him was immediately after our discernment weekend with Lay Mission-Helpers last June: he drove up from San Diego and we spent 48 hours together in Los Angeles. He was a good brother and uncle, and while his death had nothing to do with our mission, it is something we deal with here. We may have left our home in New Mexico and our family and friends in the States, but we bare them all with us on mission. Even, or especially, the departed.
July 13, 2013
This is your death day, one year later. For 32 years this day arrived for you without fanfare, without foreknowledge, without notice, and passed quietly into history. One year ago, you toiled through the day without knowing the ground would fall out from beneath you. Today I quietly observed your death day the same way you spent it: going about my work, pausing to wonder at the beauty of creation.
When I think of you and how you died, it is like the ground falls out from under my feet and for a second I am falling with you, and grief overtakes me like death and rock and ice overtook you. Then my life continues here, in a new and strange place and culture, while you are experiencing the gift of what is beyond death, a heaven in which God's ancient love is always new. Many things here in Kumbo remind me of you, mostly things which I know you would notice or would like to see. I want to compare notes with you about living abroad, I want to share with you what I am experiencing, and for a second I forget you have died and reach for my phone to call you.
And yet I can share with you! If the faith we share means anything, if the hope we have in Christ is founded on anything, if Christ conquered the grave, then you and I are united in the mystical body of Christ and I am in deepest communion with you who see God when I receive Him in the Eucharist.
I am managing. I will keep on keepin' on. But you, you have crossed the bar, you have finished the race: it is accomplished.
You have ascended.