The children had dental appointments and I was running late and so found myself in the back without a program in hand, a thousand people in front of me, a thousand faces, a thousand hearts, some in black clothing, some not, all coming together for one purpose, to say goodbye to Tim Bosma.
We listened to the preacher talk about it, about how this is all a warning that you, that YOU need to get your life together, that Tim’s death is your wake-up call, how there is nothing better to clear the senses than this sort of thing, the sobering knowledge of your own hanging at sunrise, and that in this, whether you care to see it or not, you can give thanks.
We sang. We prayed. Sometimes the prayers had words. We listened to stories of Tim from his friends and family who filed to the podium one after the other.
His father remembered the day when Tim was born. And he remembered the day Tim misbehaved and dad grounded him for a week, forcing the little boy to help him with this project or that in the back yard. “And he said, ‘Daddy, that was the best grounding that I ever had,’ ” because Tim, in fact, enjoyed spending time with his father that much.
The news cameras were there and the lights and the microphones, so that many other thousands could hear and see. All this in the same public hall where Tim and his wife were married, where they and their friends danced and gave thanks and drank wine in a very different way, now a hall of both sweetness and bitterness, the only location, really, that could hold such an outpouring.
Then Sharlene stood at the podium and there were murmurs and gentle gasps and anticipation. And through her brokenness she not only held it together but made us laugh several times before mentioning the devil. The devil, she said, knocked on her front door one recent evening. Then he smiled at her before taking away her Tim, before doing what the devil loves to do, lie and steal and shove a long knife through any heart that happens to be in front of him.
And I stood with those thousand others and listened through glassy eyes. I was struck by many things. I was moved to consider how so much of life is not how we want, but simply how it is.
This is the story. The disappearance and murder of a man most of us never even knew. It has somehow touched my life. It has somehow touched the life of an entire community. An entire country. And it has done this because our lives, for better or worse, flow into each other. This is what we know more than ever. No man, no woman, no child, is an island.
If you can get murdered for no good reason, so can I. And if you don’t have peace and joy and freedom, neither, really, can I. We’re all in this together. Somehow. Both the lost and the found, we’re together.
At the end it was ‘It is Well with my Soul’ before the sandwiches and everyone streaming back to their jobs and gardens and daily routines. But before that, for the final reading, I had to ask the woman in front of me if I could look over her shoulder, because I had come late and didn’t have that program and didn’t know the reading as well as I’d like to.
It was of the vision of old John when he was at Patmos left to die and rot as a prisoner on that island, among the last passages that ends the Bible’s last book, clanging like an old gothic church bell, and so true — if John were here he’d insist it was as true as you putting on your shoes this morning – when it says that one day, one mysterious day, there will be no more tears. God himself will wipe them from our eyes. He will be with us, without time. This is what old John saw, what he couldn’t, not really, explain. Everything new. The things we now live with, even death itself, all passed away. Earth. Heaven. Everything in between. Gone, for something better.
Some days you wonder if it’s not just a bit too far beyond belief. On those days, you also somehow wonder how anyone could believe anything less.