Today, Cynthia Bolbach, the moderator of the 219th General Assembly of my denomination, the PC(USA), passed away. She had been battling cancer. Only this morning, word had spread that she was going into hospice care. I know that many of my friends have heavy hearts right now. Prayers go out to her and her family.
I only met Cindy once. She was preaching at my seminary on an occasion when I happened to be there. We didn’t talk much, but two things came through very clearly in the time that we did chat: 1) she had a deep love for the church 2) the church that she deeply loved had exhausted her. This was certainly no failing of hers. I get exhausted being part time minister of a small congregation. She was dealing with the anxieties stresses and fear of the entire denomination at a particularly stressful time. I can’t imagine. And though I could tell that she was holding these two realities in tension, it was clear that the second reality in no way diminished the first.
We use this phrase, “rest in peace”. I think that for many across history, death has been thought of as a release. A final rest after the long struggle. I think Christianity has reinforced the notion that life is struggle and death is freedom. These words from the hymn “For All the Saints”:
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light. Alleluia, Alleluia!
Life is struggle, work, darkness, pain. We take comfort in the rest that will come from being in company with God. There we will ultimately find peace.
But life isn’t just those things. If it were, no one would mourn, unless we only do so out of a selfish grief that we’re being left behind. Some do that, but most grieve because the even amidst the struggle, work, darkness, and pain, we find people and relationships that give us rest in the midst of those things. That is what those who have known Cindy well will mourn. The loss of the peace they found with her in between the moments of struggle. The peace we long to experience eternally in the arms of Christ is found ever so briefly in the arms of those that we love. Perhaps it is one in the same.
I pray that Cindy has found rest. I pray that those who loved her will find rest in the hugs, cries, laughters and memories of the coming days. And I pray that we all find peace in the hearts of those who love us.