At Holy Comforter we have experienced two deaths in our parish family over the last several days. Joe Pilch, a much loved and longtime member of the parish reached the final days of his battle with cancer and died peacefully with his family surrounding him on Tuesday morning.
Later that afternoon, I was called to Fairfax Hospital where Bill Parrish, who with his wife Marianna, transferred to Holy Comforter just over a year ago, died from complications due to cardiac arrest. The loss of these two wonderful, gifted, and unique men, and the sorrow of those who loved them, left me with a fresh awareness of the impermanence of human life.
As Christians, we know that we have come from God and that we will also return to God. We must not only face our inevitable deaths, but willingly allow for the deaths of those we know and love and live with. If you think about it, our lives are constantly marked by the transitions and experiences of letting go of people we love. We leave the safe body of our own mother’s body when we are ready to breathe on our own. We leave home to attend college or establish our own vocation. We leave our parents when we are ready to marry. We eventually retire and some of us leave our beloved parish communities to do so. Life seems to be made up of many experiences of letting go and beginning again.
We have seen many people depart from our lives and we will continue to experience these departures as we grow older. We loved them because they could not be replaced. We loved them precisely because they were human. It is why we can love God revealed in the humanity of Jesus. Easter proclaims his mortality was not fatal but the way to a whole new quality of existence. Death may end a physical life but it cannot end a relationship.
Because of Easter, we now see that death is not the end of life, but a letting go into a fuller dimension of life. Joe Pilch and Bill Parrish “tasted” that life in all the wonders of this world, in their accomplishments, in their love of family and friends, and even in their tested faith and disappointments. Now they will know life in full measure even as we await the day when Christ brings us to the joy of his eternal kingdom.
Be of good courage and cherish the gift of another day to live, to learn, to love, and to serve.