Holy Manna: April 1, 2023

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Read: John 11:1-45

I remember being jolted awake by the phone at 5:30 a.m. on July 1, 2005. On the other end of the line was C, a relative of a family in my former husband Jon’s parish in rural Minnesota. The family’s son E had been driving home from a bar when he rolled his truck and was ejected because he was not wearing his seatbelt. He died instantly, and Jon was called to come to be with the family as they had just been notified. Jon begged me to go with him, so I threw on sweats and jumped in the car with him. We pulled up to the family’s farm 30 minutes later, and I walked into a house where people were sobbing and wailing. I spent the next hour alternating between being a shoulder on which people were sobbing and trying to help another parishioner make food to feed people. The local funeral director arrived eventually to talk to the family about arrangements, and I accompanied Jon and the family to the funeral home to see E. I remember standing there feeling helpless as E’s paternal grandparents sobbed on my shoulders and E’s mother was bent over her son’s body sobbing.

The next week was an example of the positive ways a church community mourns and takes care of their people. E’s father was supposed to be shipping cattle the day his son died, so other people from the parish showed up to the farm with their trucks and took care of it for them. The standard Midwestern Lutheran comfort food was brought to the farm by families in the parish, and E’s mother was the recipient of the first prayer shawl made by the parish’s new crocheting/knitting group. I spent Sunday morning sitting with E’s grandparents while others in the parish surrounded his parents and brothers to keep them from being alone. The funeral was very well-attended as E’s high school reunion had just happened and his classmates were the honorary pallbearers. The women’s groups from the two churches in the parish made all the food for the funeral lunch, and everyone left well-fed. I still remember all of it 17 ½ years later, and it remains one of the better memories I have of that parish.

Lord, you tell us that those who mourn are blessed for they will be comforted. Help us to walk alongside those who are grieving to lighten their load and help them to not feel alone. Amen.
-Jen McCabe