We all know loss. Death may be the greatest loss, but there are many other types of loss that impact us personally and deeply. Whatever the loss, that is when we feel the most alone and most vulnerable.
Loss is one of those unchartered arenas that is still difficult for many of us to navigate. Yes, there have been huge strides made in the field of death and dying, but we are still deficient when it comes to the many other losses people face. It’s painful losing a family member to Alzheimer’s or watching a family member gradually be lost to dementia. It’s hard seeing a friend go through divorce or a breakup of a significant relationship. Losing a job or having to move to keep a job is another loss. Then there are the personally losses of careers or health or abilities we once had. Even when there are positive outcomes the emerge from loss, that period of uncertainty and transition still conjures up anxiety and fear. We’re suspended, all alone, in a weird sort of limbo.
Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance, commemorated at 3:oo pm on Memorial Day, are specifically set aside for all Americans to remember those who have died in service to the nation. Memorial Day was established a few years after the Civil War to remember all the lives lost by those who fought in the United States bloodiest, and most costly war at that time.
It seems every generation has a war that defines that generation. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the wars of my sons’ generation. Vietnam was the war of my generation and the Korean War was my parent’s. My grandparents was World War II and my great-grandparents was World War I. I don’t think I had any great-great grandparents who were part of the Civil War, but everyone was affected nonetheless. And we haven’t even touched on all of the international regional conflicts and our own civil rights conflicts, for which those we know and love have fought and lost their lives in the sake of freedom and hope.
Loss and more loss to come.
Jesus was very aware of the loss his friends were soon to experience. They had spent an intense three years living and working together, surviving threats, and forging a new way of looking at and living life from the inside out. He knew his death was certain and soon, and he is preparing them for his departure. Of course, they aren’t entirely sure what Jesus is talking about and they are very distressed.
That’s what the threat of loss does. It shakes us our sense of security, safety, and stability. Jesus tells them this:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” ~ John 14:15-21
Jesus reassures his friends that he will not leave them orphaned, or abandoned, or alone. He tells them that another Advocate will be sent to them.
I love the meaning of this. An advocate is someone who comes along side another. Jesus tells them another Advocate will be sent. Jesus is the first, coming along side us in the Incarnation so that we might know and see an otherwise invisible God. The other Advocate is the Holy Spirit, who comes to dwell in the through us. We we come along side someone else to comfort and encourage and when we act like Jesus, we are living into the Holy Spirit’s invitation and very being. We are not alone because God is with us and those we care about are not alone when we come along side them, bringing God’s – and our – love, faith, comfort, and encouragement.
This Memorial Day, as we remember those who gave their lives in service to this nation and others who are no longer with us, may we also be aware of other losses those we know and love and care about are also experiencing. May we step up as their advocate, coming along side so they know they are not alone … ever.