Sunday, April 13, 2014

Holy Week Lament: Kaley Ehret (Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.)

In this season that I do not have time to write, this is the idea God gave me:  Ponder and notice again the words I've already written once, keep praying the beads of memory to discover this sacramental life.  This Holy Week I'm sharing again the beautiful mourning stories six of my friends generously shared with us last year.  

An introduction to Holy Week Lament:

Jesus gave us a litany of last words as a Sufferer; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ.  The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant will serve as our framework for the stories of lament we share here this Holy Week.

I count it a high privilege to know -- at least in small part -- the mourning stories of the dear ones who will share here for seven days.  Their lives walk the path between celebration, yes, but also suffering -- illness, relational disillusionment, anxiety, joblessness, death of loved ones, death of dearly-held dreams.  Their stories have helped form me in my understanding of suffering and I believe they could also encourage you too.  

Relatives of shooting victims pray outside the American Civic Association
 on Sunday, April 5, 2009, in Binghamton.
photo credit

I chose today's contribution in memory of five Palm Sundays ago when our small hometown turned in all our palm-waving for wailing.  Two days earlier -- in only three minutes time -- a gunman entered Binghamton's immigration center and killed 13 people and then himself.  He killed and wounded fellow immigrants, an English-as-a-second-language teacher, a receptionist.  

Today my mom and sister Alicia teach in that same building, some of the same students evacuated from closet and basement refuges four years ago.  They know the man who covered his wife's body with his own, hoping to save her, and losing her anyway.

visiting my mom's ESL class before we moved from Binghamton to Austin
August 2011

And five years ago another sister wrote words of response to the grief crushing all of us.

I'm sharing today these words from my beautiful sister Kaley Ehret (originally posted, April 9, 2009).

This past summer, I sat in an airplane across the aisle from a woman who was clearly distraught. After spending several minutes wrestling over whether I should speak with her, I finally did. I leaned over the aisle and whispered that I didn't mean to pry, but did she need to talk? 
She smiled grimly through her tears and shared with me that her mother was dying and that she was worried that she wasn't going to get there in time to say good-bye.  
As she opened up to me about her story, the tears began to flow...both hers and mine. As she wept, I wept. Her pain was raw and, in that moment, what I had to offer in response was my grief. The affirmation that what she felt was real and valid, and she was not aloneI wanted to do more, but I had nothing more to give. 
Last night, I attended the prayer vigil in remembrance of the 14 victims of this weekend's massacre. I saw your faces--the faces of the families of the victims. I marveled at the number of different hues of skin, all telling the story of your countries of origin: Haiti, China, Pakistan, Brazil, the Philippines, Vietnam, United States, and Iraq. 
I watched you as you passed by and wished I had something to offer. Although it was only a glimpse, I had the sense that you have felt this kind of pain before. That this kind of horror was much more familiar to many of you than it should be. 
But then, this time you are far from home. I tried to imagine how it must feel to experience such deep loss in a place that is not home. I wondered if you are longing for home now.
And I wept. All I had to offer in that moment was my grief. The affirmation that what you feel is real and valid. And that you are not alone. 
In the middle of the onslaught on Friday, there was a low, long rumble of thunder. Strange for this time of year. But for me, it was a reminder that there is a God who grieves with you as well. He has a Son who has experienced deep agony in a place that is not His home. He is fully acquainted with grief. He affirms that what you feel is real and valid. He has felt it too. 
And although I do not know you, I grieve with you. It is all that I have to offer in this moment. In this place that is not home, may you know that you are not alone. 
Palm Sunday candlelight vigil for the Binghamton shooting vicitms, April 2009
photo credit

A brief epilogue: 

As I think again about the event, think about Kaley's grieving words, imagine the unimaginable suffering of these victims (and so many more like them ) I weep again at the tragedy.  I browse back through the archived photographs and gulp down hostility when I see the photo of the shooter again.  What mania drives a human to destroy another human?

What suffering forces suffering on another?  

Jesus, a suffering human, described the humans killing him with the merciful verdict:  they do not know what they are doing.  He pressed no charges, only asked His Father -- the Judge of all humans -- to forgive them.

When I think of the innocent sufferings four Palm Sunday weekends ago in Binghamton, I think of justice rather than mercy.

But it is mercy that saves us all.

In mourning with the mourners -- both the grieving woman on the airplane and the victims of a man-made tragedy -- Kaley extended mercy, offered salvation.

Father, forgive us for we do not know what we do (and what we leave undone). Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us all.

Hosanna.  Save us now.

Kaley Ehret is my sister 
and my friend.  
She's married to Wes,
 a pastor in the 
Philly suburb of Telford, 
and they have 3 amazing,
 adorable sons. 


What mourning stories have formed your life
 and your faith in the mercy-giving Jesus?
Tell us about it in the comments below.
If you've written your own post, share the link.

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