"My friend, you know. Well, he's dead now, but anyway..."
I heard a different version of this sentence three times this morning while at breakfast with an elderly member of our community. He was speaking about a different relation each time. And each time, my heart broke a little bit more.
We just came off of All Saints' Sunday, a day where we commemorate the lives of those who've gone on in death before us and celebrate the work of God who makes all of us sinners into saints. This being the case, I assumed that I was pretty alright with conversations about death. And I was right.
I just wasn't prepared for the conversations about life in the midst of death.
As I ate breakfast with my friend, who graciously insists on paying each time, I couldn't help but grieve with him. Though his body has seen more than eighty summers and winters on this earth, his mind is as young as mine, and his tongue, much sharper! Yet, as he grows older, he's doing so less and less with the community that he matured with for so many decades. He and his wife still march on together, preparing to winter in Florida for their last time, but even there, they see fewer friends than they did before, for if they haven't died, they can no longer make the trek across country to spend a few months in the blissful warmth of the panhandle.
Somewhere in that moment, I realized that we went to breakfast monthly not only as pastor and parishioner, but as friends, brothers in Christ, who are walking this journey together. Though we're clearly at different spots on our own journeys, at this moment we share the same piece of path. There is a huge blessing in this intergenerational sort of friendship, and I don't just mean that I fill a friend spot for an elderly acquaintance.
In some ways, these relationships help me to process my own grief at the loss of all of my grandparents. In other ways, these relationships challenge my views of retirement and ability, of what age has to do with identity. In still other ways, and this most of all is a blessing, we transcend our spots in time, sometimes only for a moment, and see one another as God sees us: creatures on the way, beloved by our Creator, helping one another to get closer to the God who made us in love, for love.
My friend, you know. The one I had breakfast with this morning? I'm so glad we still have time left together. I hope I bless him half as much as he blesses me. I'm so thankful for the love of God that helps us to love one another along the way.
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Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.