Monday, February 20, 2012

Today we remember Adham

Adham's shoes, by Peter Salwen

Today we remember Adham. Teddy and Rafael and Jay are getting everything ready for the service. They’ve got the folding chairs set up for our circle, but I explain that there’ll be more people today. I go off to get the bulletins and when I come back the congregation is already beginning to assemble while Arcadia and her family are getting Mc Alpin Hall ready for the reception to follow. 
Marc has come in to get the sound set up because today we’ll be needing mikes. Amy and Andre are gettign the music ready. An altar has been set up with photographs and other memoria. I look out and see West-Park folks. And occupiers. And Jane. And so many of Adham’s family and friends. And it's time to begin.
We start by singing Morning has broken. Then Arcadia invites family and friends up to light four candles, for grief, for remembrance, for love and for life.  Like the Compassionate Friends annual December Candle lighting ceremony (. ) And Arcadia reads from Facebook postings from after Adham’s death in all their teenage rawness, uncensored emotions, just as they were. Nothing prettied or cleaned up. Nothing hidden. And as always, we sing Sanctuary. 
After John reads the story of Elijah being taken up by the chariots, Andre sings slowly Swing Low, Sweet Chariot...Then we recite the 23rd Psalm together in English and Spanish. Hugo reads a story of Jesus calling disciples from the lakeshore in Spanish and I read the story of the Transfiguration in English. And then I speak.
I rememeber. Getting the phone call in Wahingtom, DC. Getting on the bus to get back to New York City. The dozens of teenagers  who came by the house to share thier grief with Arcadia and Hugo but mainly each other.  The hundreds who came by the Ortiz funeral home, the line stretching down the block.  And the more than 250 who came to worship in the  baement of SPSA that Sunday to remember Adham. 
Three years later, it’s good to remember because it was important for our church. That morning proved we could be a church even without a building. It was, is, the people and our care for one another that made, that make, a church. That morning brought back many people who had been separated, for whatever reason, a time of reconciliation, if only for that moment. And that  morning gave us a chance to witness to hundeds of young people both about our faith and the priceless value of their owh lives. And that a church took them seriously.
Three years later, Adham remains ever young and still with us in many ways. 
Most importantly,  in the circle of friends that were connected to and through him. 
Through the relationship that circle continues to have with his family in their visits to his home, to Arcadia and Hugo. In stories that continue to be told, in laughs that continue to be laughed with him in mind. In lives thay have gotten better because young people have taken themselves and their own value  seriously.
Please understand what I am saying:
I believe that God can and does work for good in all things if we are willing to be open to working with God. That does not mean that everything that happens is a part of God’s plan. God has a plan, but not everything that happens is part of it. Why? I don’t know. Somethings remain a mystery to me. That’s what it means to be human. Sometimes, even God is surprised. And God grieves with us in the deepest part of our hearts.   But God, with our cooperation, has been working good these last three years. 
Today is Transfiguration Sunday. That  one last blast of light before the darkness of Lent descends. The disciples look up on the  mountain, and they see Jesus there with Moses and Elijah...and they get it, what he’s about, what his ministry means...then they look again and see only Jesus...then he takes them back down the mountainside, back to down here, where we live, where we live it out...the glory is only good if we live it out here...
How? There are issues that remain for me, still, from that first Sunday service, three years ago. There are still things that are known that haven’t been said. Things that are known that are hidden. In some ways, that doesn’t matter quite so much anymore. Whatever peace can be found is found and there will always be a tension between pain and peace. And yet....that silence must be a burden...and telling the truth can be a way to be set free...the truth will set you free... and be freeing for all of us who loved Adham. 
Young people, ah, young people of every age, never forget how valuable...and how vulnerable your life is. Take good care of it...and take good care of each other.. can never say I love you enough...and doing I love you even better. 
I said we had learned that a church for us is not a building. That’s still true. But buildings become places for church to be lived out. And more...what we do within a building creates over time a certain spirit. Our first remembrance services for Adham were at SPSA, where we were welcomed with hospitality, and we will always remember that. But it was not his spiritual home. This place was. I looked at a picture just last night of his confirmation day. Standing right about there....It is good to remember him here, finally. Like coming home, bringing him home, in a way. And so today, we remember...and give thanks, for Adham...for what he was, and is, in our lives.
As the offering is taken up, we sing Tu has venido a la orilla, Lord you have come to the lakeshore, and for the first time I feel myself choking up, almost unable to sing. 
Arcadia brings up several young people who have tatoos in remembrance of Adham. They hold up the pictures. And she tells the story of the dragon fly that came into her apartment and followed her and the other dragon fly stories people have experienced adding this community’s story to centuries of traditions.

Our final hymn is Pues si vivimos: When we are living.

En la tristeza, y en el dolor
En la belleza y en el amor
Sea que suframos, o que gocemos
Somos del senor, somos del senor....

In sadness or pain
In beauty or in love
Ins uffering or rejoicing
We ae of God, we are of God...

I’m not sure what to do with so many people, but Jane tells me we can make a circle all around the church. And we do,  And as the service ends, we hear first Bob Marley’s One Love and fittingly, Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love..
Upstairs there is food. And people talking. being together. We do this three years later because the reality of Adham’s tragic death on the subway tracks remains  part of our present. I have the deepest respect and admiration for how Arcadia keeps the reality of pain and loss present while at the  same time keeping all that was good and joyful in his llfe present as well. And does this while staying completely alive in each new moment that comes and present to the people around her. In this there is courage. Grace. And most of all, life. 

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