The temperature has dropped overnight, some 25 plus degrees. The wind is blowing and the leaves are dancing. It’s as if this is the final moment that ends one season and begins another. It’s as if we are encountering death in nature. As I reflected on that concept of the death of a season I reflected on a funeral visitation that I attended in Kansas City, Missouri last week. The visitation was for a co-worker of my wife’s, a man I had met a few times. He was an educator turned handy man because of a bump in the road in his life. The visitation was at St. Anthony Catholic Church on Benton Boulevard. St. Anthony’s is in what once was an old Italian-American neighborhood. The streets are lined with oak trees and majestic brick homes. Beautiful homes lovingly built and to the credit of several generations of residences beautifully maintained.
It is no longer a strictly Italian neighborhood. There are a few old Irish families that once lived in creative tension with Italian neighborhoods, but by and large the neighborhood is now Hispanic.
The visitation was crowded. The man who died was Irish, but he was from the old neighborhood. Mourners came along crowded streets, in long lines, and the sanctuary was filled with crying babies, crying adults, and the old with walkers and canes. They were encountering the death of a neighbor.
What struck me most about the crowd was not the size, or the intergenerational nature of those gathered, what struck me was its diversity. When he was a teacher and administrator the neighbor who had died impacted a lot of kids. They were all there to encounter death in their own way. I watched as one young man, perhaps in his late twenties or early thirties, stand with his back up against the wall of the church proper, silently staring with tears rolling down his cheeks.
I was sort of pushed aside as an African-American man and a Hispanic man and maybe an Italian man hugged each other and uttered remembrances of the man who had so impacted their lives.
The faces of those in the church sort of merged like a rapid-moving video and I saw all of these people encountering death. It was an encounter in a neighborhood that had, in the last 100 years, gone through its own series of deaths and resurrections, its own wave upon wave of new immigrants, changing the face of the neighborhood even as it remained the same.
I stood still and wondered, as more and more people poured into the church, how important it is for all of us to encounter death so that we might touch life with a greater passion. Perhaps the change of seasons helps us remember that as one season dies and moves to the next, so do we all. The season’s change helps us encounter death.
Write a story about an encounter with death. Think about what it means to have generations pass away. Think about what it means to say goodbye, perhaps to one generation even as we welcome the next. Write a story about your life as you encounter death.