The image to the left is one of my favorite t-shirts. I ordered it from Woot years ago and wear it frequently. While the shirt is titled “Death Cares about Life,” I like to think about it as “There is no new life without Death.”
This little t-shirt design nicely sums up a good deal of my theology. That we must have death before we can get to resurrection – something we people tend to be terribly uncomfortable with.
Yesterday was All Saints Day (November 1) and on Sunday we will mark the date as a faith community. It is a day in the church calendar when we get a little cozier with death – remembering all those loved ones and friends who are no longer with us. While I have always appreciated it, I have always observed All Saints from a distance emotionally.
This year is different. This year I mark the occasion while very much surrounded by own grief – recognizing that one of the most important Saints of my life is no longer here.
Yesterday, and then again today (which also happens to be the final day of Dia de los Muertos – a Mexican holiday in which people mark a time when the dead come close to the living), I have been thinking about this shirt. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about what new life Brady’s death has fostered.
One of the most obvious answers to that question is the sheer amount of money given to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org) by those who knew and loved him (or know and love me). Because of Brady, well over $10,000 has been raised to help prevent suicide so others don’t have to fight the demons of mental illness alone.
Brady’s death has also sparked more open, honest communication about mental illness, sadness, and pain by those in circles around him. These conversations have already helped others – some of whom never even met Brady.
More personally, I am more comfortable with my weakness and vulnerability, which also makes me stronger. There is also a depth and richness within my own experience of loss that enables me to be a better pastor (even if I’m still not quite to the point of doing certain things yet). It’s not the way I would have preferred to have learned these lessons – I’d trade them for having Brady here any day of the week – but they remain part of the new life that has bloomed since his death.
Perhaps most of all, he now sits at the center of a new community – as if a large, gravitational object that continues to pull various people, stretching across the various parts of his life, into a new place together. Within this community, love and grace have been dominant – for him, for me, and for each other. I have piles and piles of notes, cards, and other expressions of love for Brady and for me. People continue to call and check in on me. And I have watched as people interact with each other on social media – offering words of support and empathy in the midst of a dark world.
This community would not exist, at least in this current state, without a death.
New life always comes from death.
Sometimes it’s hard to see it – but it’s there.