Saturday, September 7th, 2013
St. Stephen’s Church, Cohasset
The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield
Isaiah 61: 1-3; Psalm 23; 1 John 3: 1-2; John 14: 1- 6
It always strikes me as either unrealistic or insensitive advice to the grieving: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Surely Jesus knew that his disciples would grieve his death. Surely he knows we will grieve the deaths of those we love. And never more so than when that death is the death of a child — of such an innocent as Sloane, such a bearer of God’s own grace who not only touched people’s lives, but changed them, transformed them, and made them more beautiful, more precious, more joyful and more fully alive that they ever would—or could — have otherwise been.
I did not know the amazing young woman you all knew as Sloane Staszko, and I have no doubt that I am the poorer for it. In the past few days I have heard remarkable stories about Sloane that both astonished and humbled me. Astonished me by their portrayals of her sheer love of life, of people, and of adventure… and humbled me by revealing to me my utter ignorance about those with physical limitations, and teaching me what really constitutes a good life, a full life, a life lived with un-self-conscious love and courage and openness and vulnerability. Because that is the sort of life Sloane lived.
Ryan spoke about how Sloane inspired his whole family, made them closer, and held them together; Jaz shared that Sloane had healed her once-weary soul and brought her back to life after a particularly tough time. She wept as she remembered she had Sloane to thank for introducing her to her husband Eddie, and laughed as she described parasailing with Sloane at Camp Jabberwocky.
Parasailing for heaven’s sake! Can you imagine? But then, if you’d heard about Sloane’s first time skiing, you wouldn’t be surprised: Bobbi told me how a then 6-year old Sloane landed face-first in the snow, and how when all the snow was brushed off, there was Sloane smiling broadly at all her anxious onlookers, saying, “More!”
Now that’s gusto! That’s loving life! How much we all have to learn from Sloane, a truly a beautiful and beloved child of God.
Not that her life was without suffering—anymore than the lives of those who loved her were. No, of course not. It was hard. No doubt, brutally hard sometimes. Hard and challenging and heartbreaking. And yet who that loved her would trade in one minute of it? To a person their worlds have been expanded and enriched by knowing her. To a person they have been made better people for loving her. To a person they will bear holes in their hearts and hope in their souls because of her.
You see, the world in which there is no suffering has not yet been revealed to us. Not yet. But I believe with all of my heart it has been revealed to Sloane. I believe with all of my heart that Sloane is alive—truly alive—in some mysterious and inexplicable, but nonetheless definitive way that we too will some day know.
It isn’t logical. It may not seem rational. But I’m willing to bet my life it’s real.
Because Jesus took on all the hatred and evil our world could pile on him and he overcame them. He took on death, and he conquered it. He conquered it for us, and with just the power of pure love.
“See what love the Father has given us,” Paul writes, “that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are…”
That is what we are. Beloved, we are God’s children. When we weep, He weeps. When we hurt, He hurts. And when our hearts break, God’s own heart breaks. We are His beloved children for whom death will never be the final word.
Donald and Bobbi, Ryan and Calla, Jazz, Eddie, and Tina…the road ahead of you is hard. Grief is exhausting, difficult work. Let your hearts be troubled, for heaven’s sake. Let yourselves feel the pain of loss that only the grace of love can generate. Let your tears fall.
But be gentle on yourselves and on one another in the process. Remember you need never be alone. Remember you have each other. Remember you have all these people who are here today because they love you. Remember you have this church, and a God who loves you as His precious children.
Then, when you’re ready — in your own time and no one else’s—wipe away the tears, muster up a smile, and say, “More!” Amen.