Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more . . .
I am someone Kim Sanders chose to love, sight unseen. Well before we met, she had decided to think kindly of me and care for my well being. And whenever she could, she offered me words of kindness, affirmation, and blessing.
Even when she was struggling with something, which was most of time that I knew her, Kim offered love and kindness to those around her. She always seemed more interested in us than in talking about herself. No matter what she was going through, she always managed to turn the conversation around. “But how are you?” she’d ask, and I knew that she truly wanted to know.
One night I couldn’t sleep and finally I got up, turned on my computer and starting scrolling through Facebook. I came across Kim’s posting from about an hour earlier: “I couldn’t sleep,” she wrote, “and was feeling a bit blue. So I decided to watch one of my favorite movies, Notting Hill. It lifts my spirits every time!” I’m not ashamed to say that Notting Hill is one of my favorite movies, too. Partly because of Hugh Grant, but mostly because of its wonderful depiction of lasting friendship among a most unlikely group of people and improbable love prevailing against all odds. And it was so British. How Kim must have loved that.
Kim loved a good story—Shakespeare, a romantic comedy, or anything in between. Over the years Kim must have given me a dozen novels that she just knew I would love. And cookbooks. I mentioned to her once that my vegetarian son had just gone vegan and I wasn’t sure what to make for Thanksgiving. The next day three vegan cookbooks were on my desk. That was Kim’s way.
As I was prepared for today, I realized that I hadn’t reconciled Kim’s kind and joyful spirit with all the hardships she had to endure in life. I’ve been reading the Book of Job lately, because of the daily lectionary, and maybe that emboldened me to actually feel some anger toward God on her behalf. Her illness and death are a mystery that makes me sad and leaves me in greater awe of her at the same time.
When I think of Kim now, in the place of great unknowing, the image that comes to mind is one of complete liberation. I see her soul free, no longer tied to a body that so often failed her. I also imagine her hovering as close to us as heaven will allow, out of love, yes, but also curiosity. She’d want to know, what are Geoffrey and Doris up to now? And how are all the priests and deacons that she help shepherd through the ordination process doing? And is Paula’s new husband treating her right? How does Joey like her new job? And can you believe it? Paul Cooney is a grandfather!
We only have our points of reference from which to make whatever sense we can of the great mysteries of life. Some, like death, lie beyond our grasp until we cross the threshold ourselves. Ancient human intuition and the best of our spiritual traditions tell us that after this life there is a homecoming, a banquet, even, a place where all that is wrong is made right, and where God’s will of love is realized. Jesus promises us a room in God’s house and that he will come, when the time comes, to carry us over Jordan.
The poet John O’ Donohue, who also died too young, wrote that there is “a beautiful surprise waiting inside death, which in one simple touch absolves us of all loneliness and loss, as we quicken within the embrace for which our souls were eternally made.” (John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings (New York: Doubleday, 2008), p. 180.)
I see all that goodness for Kim now, and give thanks to God for all that is hers on the other side of what we can see. She deserves all of it, one lavish gift of heaven after another.