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September 9, 2004
Maybe you didn't read about him, if you don't live in New Jersey -- the fire department deputy chief who ran into a burning apartment house early one morning last week to rouse all its tenants. They all got out alive. He wasn't wearing his gear -- he was off duty. He was the only one who didn't make it.

The funeral was yesterday. It was like all the funerals we saw several times a day three years ago -- a pretty widow in black, carrying a stunned child who was really to big to be carried but needed to be carried anyway, this time. A sister on one side and one of her husband's colleagues on the other as they followed the flag-draped casket down the steps of the church.

The same combination of sorrow and pride. The same deep admiration. The same pit in the bottom of the stomach. The same feeling of somehow wanting to be better, permanently better, to make a life good enough to make up for the one that was lost, a life that marks itself, notices itself, doesn't just blow everything off. The same desire to be worthy. Worthy of the gift of life.

We have thought that we had put our sorrow in the past, but sometimes sorrow won't stay there. It comes back. Decades later, it can still come back. This is because our spirits don't really believe in time, don't put much stock in it. Time is only an historical reality, tied to the earth: in God's domain, it doesn't exist, and sometimes we catch hold of what that's like for a moment or two. Old feelings are fresh. The past lives, and even the mysterious future.

And the dead live there. Live in that timeless way, all the time. Enter it immediately, present here and there and in all times and places because there are no longer times and places, just the now of God. We pause for a moment on the steps of the church, thinking perhaps we heard or saw something. Or perhaps not. We're not sure. Perhaps we're just not able to hear and see it yet.
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