31 March 2015

Thirty Years

When the phone rings that early on a Sunday morning, you know it's never a good thing. Mom on the line. Telling me my brother, Joseph, had been killed in a car accident early that morning. Lord, have mercy. I still remember saying: "You're kidding, right?" And her sharp rebuke: "Would I kid about something like that?"

I was a vicar at the time, serving in Garfield, New Jersey at Holy Trinity. I remember pulling myself together as much as I could and walking over to tell Pastor Plvan. I was scheduled to preach. "Do you think you can do it?" he asked. I said that I thought I could.

I asked him not to say anything. A friend once said of me: "He's the most intensely private person I know" and that's nowhere more evident than in dealing with grief. I just needed to process this on my own.

The liturgy was really hard. I've always loved the Palm Sunday hymns and I remember sobbing my way through the sermon hymn, and Bev (as acolyte that morning) looking across the chancel at me wondering what on earth was going on. I pulled myself together to get into the pulpit and a preach a homily on Zechariah 9. "Rejocie!" Made it through it and was fine for the rest of the liturgy.

During the Bible Class hour, I told my youth group and David (now long since gone too!), took charge as he always did. You see, we couldn't just pop in the car and head home because I was committed to playing at the Church's cantata that evening; Diane was singing "I know that my redeemer lives" and I was her accompanist. I needed to do that. So David arranged for us to get a flight. Right after I finished playing, he took Cindi and I to the airport and we flew one bumpy flight back to DC.

Cindi's grandparents met us at the airport and brought along their extra car for us to use while we were in town. Then the horror of facing my sister-in-law and those sweet little girls, and my mom. We all had gathered at their place and there were sobs a plenty.

It was thirty years ago, and yet I think I remember every single detail of that day and the days following, when so many other days have long since faded in memory. We had a connection, Joe and I, that was different. We loved arguing. Take any subject and we'd argue it. He was a thinker and he didn't allow for shoddy thinking to go unchallenged either!

I remember so well him attending my graduation from Bronxville, and some private conversations along the way. Nothing we couldn't say to each other, and that's a special gift for an older brother to give a younger one. Anyway, I miss you, Joseph. The years haven't made that any easier.

No comments: