Sep 17 2009

A Black Square (Death): Part 1

Published by at 2:56 am under Death

In my last post, I wrote about how my best friend’s brother died. I just got back from spending the last few days in Chicago with Alex and his family. I learned so many things and hope it honors Chase to share some of them in a series.

First, there’s a reason people wear black to funerals.

The Lineman and Lorena
In the summer of 2002, I met Alex in Daytona Beach. I worked at a day camp for kids. Every morning, we’d take the kids outside and brave the Florida sun before the day got too hot. Every so often, we played kickball. The fun thing about camp was that the counselors got to play with the kids. We loved it and so did they.

One day, we split into teams. The offensive team lined up in the order they were going to kick. We played for a while and then one of the counselors, Mitch, came up. Mitch was a beast. He was an offensive lineman for East Tennessee State. 6’6”, 275 pounds. A pitch was rolled and Mitch kicked the ball deep. It landed for a hit and one of the other counselors, John, ran to get it. Mitch was in an all-out sprint around the bases. He wanted a homerun.

John got the ball and started sprinting toward the infield. As Mitch rounded third, he looked over his shoulder and was laughing hysterically. Everyone started cheering and screaming in anticipation as John continued to close in and prepared to throw the ball. About that time, I looked at home plate. The next kicker was a 10-year old named Lorena. Oblivious to exactly what was happening and eager for her turn to kick, Lorena was standing ON home plate as Mitch barreled down the third base line. Since I was in the outfield, I couldn’t do a thing.

Mitch continued his sprint to home plate, looking over his shoulder at John. At the last second, Mitch turned forward to step on home plate. It was too late. Just 3 steps away from home plate AND Lorena, Mitch couldn’t stop. His entire 6’6”, 275-pound sprinting mass plowed into Lorena. The collision steamrolled her to the ground as Mitch somersaulted over the top of her. Lorena didn’t die, but the impact she felt with Mitch was unexpected, painful, and shook her up considerably.

Death is a Lineman
Death is always violent. We watch movies like Saving Private Ryan or see images in the news of slain soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re violent in the physical sense. But emotional violence impacts far more when someone dies. Family members and close friends are steamrolled. A place that seems to live beneath their heart collapses – even if only moments before they were laughing and having a good time.

He-Man Not So Strong
That’s what I saw this week – the unseen toll of death and what it does on the inside of the survivors. At the outset, there is only darkness. Psalm 88 is a lament and bitter cry to God from a man named Heman. His psalm concludes with great discouragement:

You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.

Knowing that, I thought it was a perfect expression of grief that Alex changed his Facebook profile picture to a black square this past week.

When someone dies, everything goes flat. In the 48 hours after death, we go through all the pictures of our loved one. And flip as we might through years of photos, even images can be too complicated. Sometimes colors communicate enough – even with our clothes. There’s a reason people wear black to funerals.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “A Black Square (Death): Part 1”

  1. Jessicaon 17 Sep 2009 at 12:08 pm

    As someone who lost her mom three years ago this month, this hit me like a sweet thud in that place right beneath my heart. I can tell you from experience that one thing that makes all the grief and heartache bearable is having caring, brave people who are willing to share it with you. I’m sure your willingness to get in there with Alex has meant a lot to him, and even this blog post has meant a lot to me. Thanks for being so brave and willing to go to such dark places with the people you love.

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