Today marks the seven year anniversary of the loss of our pastor and dear friend Kyle Lake. Kyle’s legacy lives on in many ways. One thing that has been especially meaningful for UBC’ers, those who knew him and those who have joined us along the way since his passing, has been Kyle’s benediction that we say as a congregation at the end of the service. I have asked several people to reflect on the benediction and share thoughts with us. I will be posting their stories and artwork here for the next few days. _______________________________
Seven years ago. Seven. It’s hard to believe it has been that long. Isn’t time funny how it feels so close and far away at the same time?
I remember this day seven years ago so vividly. I remember what I wore that day. Green corduroy pants and a tan Jimmy Eat World shirt, it had a western scene on it. I remember parts of the conversations I had that morning, lighting the candles in front of the baptistry, and then that fateful moment full of resounding commotion and silence. All. At. Once.
The death of my friend Kyle and the days that followed it, fundamentally changed me. Grief and death no longer were to be held at arms length and community could no longer be a practice only spoken about.
In the past six years in my professional life I have found myself looking into the eyes of those that are grieving, hearing the voices of those that are in such deep pain, and there have been so so many. Each situation and person unique in its own way. Grief never gets any easier. Period. It just gets different. I have learned a great deal in the past seven years, not only from my personal experience with loss but also from those I’ve walked alongside of.
1- Grief is not selective about who it touches, no one is immune, and we all suffer loss.
2- Grief is not something you recover from.
3- There is no template for grief.
4- After a loss, you have to reconfigure parts of your life – relationships, behaviors, routines.
5- Sometimes, the smallest of things call up the biggest of memories
6- It’s ok to cry, to be angry, to be still…
7- Grieving well is not all about sadness but is about gladness and celebration too.
But probably the biggest lesson I have learned is that grief and faith live this sort of intertwined life. Faith not only serves as a comfort in times of grief, it sometimes serves as a frustration in times of grief. Yet faith teaches me that grief is good.
Experiencing grief is to experience the loss of something that mattered to you. Did you catch that? I’ll repeat it. That MATTERED to you. In a strange way it is grief that calls our faith to be human. If we spent all our time with our faith focused on what’s beyond this world we would miss the beauty of this world. If I never grieved a loss then I was never living.
My family and I recently moved to North Carolina after almost a decade in Waco. We were ready to go where we felt called to go, to step out on faith that we are on a divine journey beyond our own understanding. But we grieve the loss of our friends in Waco, of our routines, of our favorite places, of the house we brought our son home to, and of the memories of our life there. Had we never planted roots, leaving would have never hurt and those 9+ years would have been boring.
(If I had never known Kyle – I fully believe life would have been way more boring!)
UBC has this benediction that was started by Kyle “as we approach this week may we Love God, embrace beauty, and live life to the fullest.” You’ll notice there are no qualifiers to this charge. It’s not “when you feel like it” or “only on good hair days” or “only on Sundays” or “only when it’s not messy”. Long before his death, Kyle was already teaching us that living life to the fullest doesn’t always mean we get to pick the terms. In a way, he was already teaching us about grief. That grief is a part of living and that the best part of living is that it’s messy and beautiful and with each other!
So yes, on this day, I hold my grief a little closer and little more carefully but I also know that I hold my faith alongside it and I celebrate the life of the most infectious person I’ve ever known. Love God. Embrace Beauty. Live Life to the Fullest.
Amanda Horton is a graduate of North Carolina State University and recently completed her masters in Higher Education-- Student Affairs at Baylor. She and her husband Adam, who was a student at Truett at the time, were close friends with Kyle and Jen. After almost a decade in Waco, the Hortons, along with their son Everett, have returned to their native North Carolina where Amanda is the Assistant Director for Campus Life and Programs at Wake Forest University.