origami crossThis is the final object I pulled out of my box last week with a story.
Once upon a time this was a cross. It was made by a young parishioner for me while he was in jail. He was caught on the Minnesota border trying to cross into Canada; when they went to check on his mother (he was driving her car), they found her dead in their house. I won't go into details; let me just say that it was a violent death.
We never found out what happened that night. He was in jail for over two years, waiting while the prosecution and the defense negotiated. I went to visit him in a waiting room that could have been out of a movie set; the glass, the scratchy phones, the Jehovah's Witnesses conducting bible studies with individuals on either side of us (those men never knew what to do with me when I was visiting--one of them even told me the "women's side was over there. . .")I felt completely at sea, navigating on instinct and prayer and the guidance of the wise people around me, but it was never enough, nothing was enough to make this go away, or be fixed.
The young man killed himself in the jail the night before he was supposed to be sentenced. There was never a trial, just a deal between the prosecution and the defense, a generous offer considering the circumstances, but a stretch in prison probably beyond imagining for a teenager.
My rector was in Iraq at the time; planning and preaching fell to me, wrestling with my own grief and guilt. It took the support of mentors, friends and a long session with my spiritual director to help me write a sermon and preside at that service.
In the process of dealing with it all, I picked up the origami cross, thinking I would take it somewhere to be framed, but it fell apart in my hands. He hadn't had access to a whole lot of art supplies in the jail, and of course some they would not have let him use even if they'd had them. The folds of the paper and the kind of glue he had used simply couldn't hold up under the stress of holding the cross together.
I've kept the pieces, because they really speak to me, the fragility, the loss, the pieces that couldn't find a whole in this world.
There are some moments in ministry that don't get wrapped up neatly, that don't fit in a scrapbook or a shadow box, just pieces I want to hang onto, but never know quite what to do with.
Songbird asked us about friendship in the RevGal Friday Five this morning; let me share where friends intersected with this story--
my friend M. from seminary who went to visit this young man in the detention center in Minnesota, who even went with the family to the extradition hearing, to her I am grateful beyond measure.
my mentor, E., and his wife, who helped me with so much, who held my hand and let me cry on their shoulder, who helped me break the news to the family.
my friend J., who we jokingly called the Sermon Doctor, and who a long time ago had helped me prepare a sermon for a dear friend who had committed suicide, and who had asked a priest friend of his to send me a copy--the connection with that priest I've never met, knowing that he was praying for me, and the wisdom in his sermon, sustained me in both circumstances
my spiritual director, Sister J., who helped me get through the emotional blockage so I could write the sermon.
and another seminary friend C., who is planning and preaching a service for someone who committed suicide, and who I'm holding in my prayers now.
Those bonds are stronger than glue and origami, beyond space and time, and incarnate Christ's love when everything else seems to be falling apart.