This will be the first of two blog posts tonight. This will be a bit more logistical in nature, though not just that because it never is with me. The second will be Chris’s obituary if I can bring myself to post that tonight.
Please be aware that this post may be a trigger for some who may read it, especially further in. I’ll warn again a little further in.
Since Chris was lost last week, I’ve been talking to God, to Chris and to myself a lot. I have titles and words running non-stop through my head, as my blog posts probably indicate. What I’ve written is only a portion. I often have titles and words running through my head and I write them because that’s all I know to do right now. Letting the words flow my brain and my heart to my fingers and onto the page is also about the only thing that allows me to get some sleep at night. Probably that and your prayers, because my prayers, well, I haven’t been saying too many because I don’t know what they are. A number of years ago, I became quite content with the Spirit interceding with sighs too deep for words.
And recently the word “vessel” kept coming into my head. I don’t exactly remember why. I think it might have been thinking of Chris’s body as a vessel as it became more and more likely we would (hopefully) find him as just the vessel. And I was thinking about myself as a very, very cracked vessel, full of pain and the most profound sorrow, no matter how things transpired. And the vessel that Chris’s friends and brother tattooed on themselves, the one that always reminded Chris that we are never alone, no matter how alone or lonely we might feel.
And thinking of a casket, and that kind of vessel. Or an urn. Or a canoe or the clay jars that Chris made that I’ve used as communion cups or the ones in the picture, most of which Chris made in high school and which I’ve always displayed because they are imperfect and beautiful and full of the earnestness with which Chris made them and gave them to me.
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:6-8
And some version of these verses ran through my head. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I can’t memorize Bible verses like I used to, but the threads sew their ways through my being. And Chris, boy was he a treasure in a clay jar, so fragile, so beautiful, and so extraordinary because God was at work in him and through him. And now the life of Jesus is made so visible through his life, and even through his death.
(Here is your trigger warning).
It turns out when you’re a pastor, you often have friends with professions that are a little more rare, like that of being a funeral director. As Chris was missing more and more days, I still carried hope I would find my baby’s spirit in his vessel, but I was also, of course, quite aware that this might not be the case. So I asked my friend Brian for two favors.
I asked him to start working on logistics for a bike ride the length of the Mississippi in 2018, either as a celebration with Chris or as a tribute and memorial to him. And I asked him to research green ways to care for Chris’s body if the body was found as an empty vessel, but not to share this second favor until I would need to know. As we all know now, that moment came Thursday evening.
Brian was gracious enough to help me with both of these things. I won’t go into all the details, but Brian recommended using the services of Bradshaw Funeral Home because of some of their green practices. I took the information and thought I would take that and also ask my friend Anne who is a funeral director. It turns out that Anne is a funeral director at Bradshaw, and so through tears she promised me she’d take care of my baby and us, too.
We met with Anne today. So here are some details for those of you who are interested in such things:
She will receive Chris’s body from the Medical Examiner tomorrow morning. We will have a chance to view this vessel that once held the spirit of Chris. Being in water that long is not good for a body. He will look nothing like the clay jar which held the light of my son. And yet, I will see him. I have always loved Chris and though I realize his light has been released from that vessel, I plan to honor him in the viewing.
Chris will be cremated in the most eco-friendly manner we could find. It is water based and Chris would have been fascinated by this process. I, for one, cannot read about it, and i probably would not really understand it. We have chosen a biodegradable urn with the picture of a sailboat that we will have Friday at the memorial service. At a later date, we will release Chris’s remains into the river where that vessel will biodegrade. He will be released back into the river that took his life. He would, I think, be very happy with this.
We will reserve some of his ashes to plant a tree along the Mississippi and for family members to hold in a vessel of their choosing.
My heart breaks each and every minute. I would like nothing more than for Chris’s being to be back into the vessel God blessed us with for 22 years. And yet…
Peace to you this night, my family and friends. This clay jar has so many cracks in it and it is really only God’s light that shines through me. Peace