Last week we buried a young man, murdered in his mid-20s. It is one of the greatest dignities I can afford someone who exists close to the street but is also something that brings me great pain. Could there be any greater honour than to be trusted by a family to sit with them in their grief, and could there be any greater agony than sitting amid such pain and loss? In such a state, people aren’t asking philosophical nor theological questions; often, they’re doubting existence itself. There are no words to answer such doubts. All there is, is presence. The foster mother had first taken this boy in at the age of three when he was removed from his family for severe neglect. She will never forget the first night he sat down to dinner. He ignored his cutlery and dove into his dinner hands-first. The whole family thought he was about to start shovelling it into his mouth Indian style (I really am in a rare position to be able to write that). Instead he was moving his food around on the plate and staring at it as it passed through his fingers. It looked like he was playing with it rather than about to eat it. When asked what he was doing, he responded, “I’m checking for ants.” Only three years old.
During his memorial stories, we were told of a life that blew away the idea of a level playing field. I don’t think it would be fair to call the time he was in utero, “gestation”, it would be more accurate to call “a pickling process”. Stories were traded, as they are in Wayside style, about a young man who everyone loved, but who also drove everyone mad. Even the police and prison guards were in attendance at the funeral, such was the impact his life had upon them. We heard about how he used to take an extra lunch in primary school for the man who was sleeping under the bridge, and how he was first suspended for punching a kid, who was bullying some other kid who had Cerebral Palsy. We also heard how he was so driven by self-hatred that he would punish himself constantly, even from a young age.
This week we had another funeral. I had officially placed a 6-month moratorium on all deaths – but I don’t think anyone was listening. We started the service with the Angels playing “Am I ever going to see your face again?” Some of you will know that at Angels concerts, crowds used to respond to the question posed in that song. I’m not inclined to share with you the words of the crowd response except to say, you’d never hear it in church and you’d never hear it at a funeral; except at Wayside where it could be yelled out with a potent mixture of love and sorrow.
Thanks for being part of our Inner Circle,
Pastor & CEO