“Communities” – January 17, 2010

Sometimes life throws us things that make us question the justice of the world.

I’m not religious; I’m not even spiritual. But I tend to believe that there’s an order to the universe, that things even out. Despite so much evidence to the contrary, I tend to think good things ultimately happen to good people.

When a lovely, positive, vibrant 27-year old is losing her battle with cancer, I’m reminded that this world can be cruel and random. That horrible things can happen to the best people and the best families.

We were part of a rather counter-cultural Catholic church in the 80s and 90s. I knew nothing of the orthodoxy and intolerance that continue to plague more traditional Catholic churches, because ours was accepting of differences, more concerned with issues of peace and justice than what people did behind closed doors. The church’s first members were young, in their late teens and early twenties. They got married, had kids (I was one of those kids), and thus a generation was born into this caring and intimate environment. We all lived in the same neighborhood as the church. We walked there and to each other’s houses for sleepovers and pool parties. Many of us went to the same schools and rode the same buses.

By the early-to-mid-90s, many of the members who’d married had divorced (my parents included), and many had moved away from the neighborhood. Many of us stopped going to the church (the priest who’d helped to start it had long since moved out West) and found somewhere (or nowhere) else to go. Now, members of that first generation of kids are in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties. Many of the parents are remarried, graying. And we’re all tolerant, open, and concerned with peace. Justice.

We met today at Spring Grove Cemetery – that large and lovely place I grew up across the street from, celebrated my First Communion in, and learned how to drive a stick in – to honor Jenna. About one hundred of us gathered near the entrance, slowly recognizing each other and sharing hugs and tears. For the next hour and a half, we walked quietly through the cemetery, umbrellas open, thinking, reflecting, crying, and praying. Spring Grove has always represented peace, beauty, and community much more than death. It was a gray, rainy day that seemed appropriate for the circumstances.

I have trouble holding grudges nowadays. I reserve my anger for deceit, injustice, and intolerance, and only towards those I don’t know personally. For everyone else, especially, today, Jenna and her family, I have only love and hope that somehow, somewhere, the world restores order.

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