Death Too Young

This past week two youth, brothers, from a group I help advise were killed in a car accident on the evening of the younger brother’s 16th birthday – and just a week shy of the other’s 18th.

Both boys were extremely gifted and all-around good kids. The older brother, whom I knew the best, was an inquisitive, observant, artistic young filmmaker who was just accepted to film school in L.A. He wasn’t the most popular, but he was a friend to everyone. He was the kind of guy that took life seriously but still knew how to enjoy it. The younger was quiet and still finding his way in the group but on the verge of coming into his own. An excellent pianist and athletic young man, he had everything going for him. I will miss getting to know the men they were becoming.

The memorial service brought many friends and family together to say their goodbyes. The majority of our group came out to support their family and each other as we dealt, and continue to deal, with this loss.

I must say, though, that for me the pastor was pretty ineffective. Though he knew the boys pretty well, the pastor wasn’t able, for grief or lack of ability, to offer a voice of condolence or comfort. Other than his obvious emotion, he never really expressed the heart of who they were. I got a better picture of them and found meaning in the legacy they leave through the words of their friends.

I had a hard time, too, with the emphasis on making an alter call of sorts. Maybe it’s my own spiritual evolution over the past few years, but it just didn’t seem to me to be the right time. To me, it took away from the remembrance of the two young lives that were lost and disrupted the grieving process. It just turned me right off and felt a little opportunistic.

I understand that people find comfort in the notion that their loved ones are in a better place and, for Christians, that means something specific. And I respect that. But the words spoken yesterday left a bad taste. It was as though they went beyond wanting to be there for counsel and support and more like taking advantage of grief as an avenue for conversion.

On an unrelated note, though happening at the same service, just prior to the benediction, another pastor decided to speak to the younger members of the congregation in the form of text messages just in case they didn’t hear the Gospel through the way it was spoken before. I don’t send text messages but I’m not sure he really spoke to the gathered youth very well – but I’m sure he thought he did…

I just wish that there was a little more focus on the lives lived by the two young men and the memories they left behind rather than talking about what it means to be a “true” Christian and what a “true” Christian is supposed to believe. Talk about who they were, don’t try to speak a language you don’t understand. If you do that, you will reach people on a much deeper level. If you try too hard, the message gets lost.

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