"Is my son dead?"
"Yes," I said. "Just a few minutes ago."
The man is old, somewhat older now than a few hours ago. He had been expecting it, but there's no way to get ready for this.
The family called to ask me to go tell him the dreadful news. They were far away. Because of his health, they did not want him to hear the news on the phone while he was alone.
He's a tough talking man with an outrageous sense of humor and a tender, as well as a fragile heart. He's never been to church but he's one of my people. I've only known him a year, but I love him deeply.
"You want some coffee or tea? Maybe some milk?" he said abruptly.
"No, I'm fine."
I sat as he told me stories of a son who'd done some bad things, but the father knew his grown child was good.
"It ain't RIGHT!" An old lion's brief roar.
"No." I whispered.
I have no magic words at a time like this. Nothing can be said that will make this better. It isn't right.
There are too many people in my church who've had to bury their children.
I just got back from his house. My back aches like I've been doing heavy lifting. I can't help thinking about my sons. If they were taken from me, how would I go on? And how will he?
It puts the other problems I have with this church in perspective.
This is the work I've been called to do. It's dreadful, but there's beauty. I can't explain it but this is the work I'm honored to do, and it's why I'm still a minister.