“As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—”Luke 19:41
Palm Sunday? Twenty twenty? (Not seeing’ it!) What a day this is…
This day, twenty five years ago, my dad passed away. An aneurysm while on vacation, was followed by a surgery considered a success, then an infection and a week of unconscious uncertainty. During that week, family flew in from all over the world; we spent time at the bedside, met with surgeons and doctors, then lawyers about living wills. And in a last meeting around a conference table we were given a grim and final prognosis; 24 hours.
We made an immediate plan, dad would not die alone in ICU. An all night vigil was set up, we’d take turns being there, a few at a time. Immediately, his vitals went back up, and things began to turn around; we were given glimmers of hope that perhaps a miracle might happen. But ultimately, this show of strength was not to save him, but perhaps just to confirm his message from the other side of unconsciousness — I hear you, I feel your love, I thank you for being here, and knowing my dad, probably a message in that last show of strength to always keep faith and never give up. But April 5th was his time, and he died this day.
Of course I remember many of the gruesome details vividly. But much brighter than that are the details of the community that carried us through. Makes me think so much of these people in ICU with Corona- family members denied of these human needs; proximity, presence, touch. I think of that time, through two lenses. Of course, one of profound shock and emptiness, the likes of what I’d never known. But the other was the silver, or actually golden lining. People came through with compassion, courage, and love that shone through on those dark days ever-so-brightly.
One brother was not able to be there; off fulfilling a dream, hiking the Annapurna Circuit. His exact itinerary unknown, to all but our comatose father. The story is too long to recount here- but, thanks to the generosity of friends and perfect strangers, embassies were opened, passport photographs were found and faxed, helicopters and house helpers were called into action in Kathmandu. With information pieced together from old postcards, good guesses on his whereabouts, lots of luck, and the kindness of many strangers, a collaborative effort to ‘find Brooks’ was put in motion. And ultimately, a world away without our family even dreaming of its possibility, the unbelievable occurred. Brooks was found, and then brought home to us, while we tended to my father and the end of his life.
The story was something like this–Brooks is found in as unlikely a place as could be imagined and takes a crop duster to a phone and down off the mountain with instructions to return home. Charles, the man who searched the trails of Annupurna for my brother in the helicopter, meets him at the airport where he gives him his tickets and visas for his many flights home. Over coffee Charles asks, “how’s your dad?” ‘He died today,’ my brother responds. And with that Charles, drops his head, and then explains that getting Brooks home was a very personal mission for him.
“Twenty years ago I was you, a young American, hiking that trail. There were no radios; I came down after six weeks to learn that my father had died. He was gone, I missed the funeral, and everything.” That man, who flew around the Himalayas in a helicopter looking for my bearded, half-baked brother (lotta sun up there,) was our Godsend. And perhaps the opportunity to help Brooks, and our family, was his. That effort of generosity, the calls, the excitement of that mission, the whole community of people who showed up, and incurred risk, sacrifice, and expense, were saviors.
That year Palm Sunday and Good Friday and the Easter story were brought home to all of us. My family lived and experienced so much in a week– shock, then trust and uncertainty, hope and hopelessness, despair and love. We were carried through those surreal days by a beloved community, with an unforgettable Spirit of hope, love, light and compassion. It felt holy.
Of course our conditions now – this Palm Sunday- are unique. We can’t even gather together. But brutal, not-to-be-believed dynamics, are nothing new: They existed 2,000 years ago when Jesus brought peace to a people he loved, knowing that despite their fanfare and adoration on Palm Sunday, they would soon be calling for his brutal execution. They existed 25 years ago when community carried my family those dark uncertain times, and they exist today as we face fear, contagion, disease and isolation.
We are made resilient and to adapt. And we are called to find a way through, with love. Each night here in Ketchum, ID , a community overrun with illness, citizens go outside at 8:00 p.m. and howl – a show of support and appreciation for our healthcare workers on the front lines. All over the country, people are showing up emotionally with faith and grace, despite trial, as Jesus did 2,000 years ago.
So on this absolutely peculiar Palm Sunday: Follow the way of Jesus, with hope, and your head held high, despite all that is unfair and ironic around you. Be an Observer of the Good, of which is plenty. Be Calm, Be Cool, and Be Aware. And Remember;
You are not alone. Ever.
Find the Palm Sunday Socially Responsible Worship on the Screen Service below. Message, music, and meditation, Community Church Lake Forest/Lake Bluff style.