It’s not something I deal with easily, but then again I don’t think anyone ever does do they? It’s just, I dunno death, someone dying…it’s just so weird for me. Sad, but weird. Mostly because when it comes to someone dying or someone close to me losing a loved one, I never know what to say or do. Death is the one thing that I can’t talk around, I can’t try to make sound better, I can’t really be an optimist about. I love words, I love to comfort and bring warmth & laughter to people with words, but Death leaves me incapable of forming any. My mouth opens to speak and they shrink back, preferring to stay captive by my thoughts, feeling safe within the confines of my mind,so I end up saying nothing. Maybe offering a hug, quietly finding some way behind the scenes to help out….when Death comes to visit, I try to offer quiet, burden lifting support in an effort to either lessen the shock or blow of It’s visit….or give the grieving party the room and space they need to….well, grieve…mourn. I don’t do funerals unless I absolutely have to-for family solidarity mostly. But my personal choice is to just not do them. I’ve been to enough of them, and have dealt with enough death in my life to realize this about myself: Silence is how I mourn. I may cry, I may ache with the pain of losing someone, but I do so quietly. I mourn by quietly reflecting….perhaps that’s why funerals & public mourning make me so uncomfortable and keep me silent-not because I’m callous or have anything against those who choose to mourn publicly, but because watching others mourn leaves me feeling helpless to comfort them-I know words don’t fill void Death has left in their hearts, so….like I said I just stay in the background and try to find a way to help…
An integral person in my life passed away last week, and although I’ve been mourning quietly since, tonight I just….my heart just feels heavy with words that need to be written. As I was in my bathroom, rolling my hair, my mind took a journey over the years I’ve known Bishop Eugene H. Graves Jr, and memory upon memory began to flood my conscious until I had stopped rolling my hair and my hands had found a grip on the countertop. You want to talk about Six Degrees of Separation? This man and his legacy are so interwoven into my life, nearly every beam in my life is connected in some way to the pillars of his. He knew my mother and her aunt who was a pastor even before my mother was saved. He’s known my stepfather since my stepfather was a teen-My stepfather’s mother was a member of his church Faith Chapel Sanctuary of Praise in Philly since….well I’m thinking the 70’s. She ran their food program….When my mother became a Christian in her early 20’s, she started going to church there….my family would be members there until about 5 or 6 years ago. My current pastors at Living Hope Christian Center in Jersey? I met them back in the 90’s when they were youth pastors at Faith Chapel and their son Ron was sitting on the drums with my stepdad, learning how to play. My first job, if you could call it that, was there-I was a camp counselor in the summer camp program my mom ran for the church. I remember chasing kids down the hallway to the bathroom near his office, and see Bishop-tall, skinny, usually in a suit-standing outside of his office with his hand on the doorknob-telling the kids to behave and then turning to me and saying, “how you doing, A’Driane? You doing alright? Where’ s your mom? Tell her I want to see her for a sec when she gets a chance, ok?”-Then, he’d go into his office and do whatever it is that Bishops do on a daily basis, like run a church. Faith Chapel is where I learned how to read the bulletin announcements, something I stand up in the pulpit and do now at Living Hope….it’s where I learned how to be an usher-offering,altar calls, passing out fans, getting people tissues….it’s where I made friends-with his youngest daughter Lynn and with Ruby-we’re all the same age. My heart is aching for Lynn right now….(sigh)
During the summers I spent with my parents and even after I moved in with them when I was 17, I spent many a night sleeping over at Bishop’s house in Warminster. Running around the neighborhood with Lynn and her friends, swimming in the pool and eating ice cream, playing man hunt at night….and then getting up bright and early for service on Sunday morning….
He dedicated me when I was 7….baptized me when I was 18. Prayed for me on the altar on Sunday-his large, comforting, but strong hand resting on my forehead, speaking God’s words and promises over me. He was my first pastor ever, my first shepherd, my first spiritual covering. His legacy, and his faith to God is intricately woven throughout my life…..he was an awesome man of God and I am humbled and grateful to have known him.
I don’t mind getting older, but the part that trips me up about it is the fact that you start to see the people who you thought were forever young as a child, age & become frail, eventually succumbing to the inevitable and dying. You start to see that the ones you just assumed would live forever are merely mortal and not immune to the final stage of the human condition.
I’m saddened for his family-a family I in many ways grew up with. My heart aches for them and I wish I had the words to comfort them at this time, because I know the void that’s left is deep. But I am happy-because I know the pain he had suffered with for years has loosed it’s hold on him and he is now face to face with the Savior he spoke, preached, and helped so many people come to know about.
Please say hello to Jesus for me Bishop, and tell Him how grateful I am that because of His redeeming sacrifice I will, among other things, have the chance to see, hug, and worship Him with you again.
Rest In Peace.