I was 12 years and one month old and I was alone and, on a bus, traveling back home from LeRoy, Michigan. It was July 11, 1947 and it must have been late because I recall it was very dark and the streets in Birmingham where the bus was to stop were deserted. I had been making jokes and I had the whole bus laughing. As usual I was hiding my pain behind laughter. The bus stopped and there was no one there to meet me. I expected my Mother and Father, but no one was in sight. The Driver said he would not let me off the bus alone. Then I saw my oldest brother running down the street towards the bus. I told the Driver it was my brother and he let me off. He wished me good luck as I exited, and I wondered if he knew my secret. My older brother had died a month earlier and I was finally coming home but for a funeral. He had died far from home in Balboa, Panama. My oldest brother told me he would be taking me to the funeral home in the morning to see our brother. In the morning prior to the funeral my brother and I went to the funeral home. I was sure that I would look at someone who was not my brother and tell everyone, “Look, it’s not him, don’t you see, it’s not him!” I was convinced that God would not take the best of us. It was him. I wanted to touch him, but my brother explained that the coffin was sealed with glass to preserve the body and we could not touch him. I cried so much that day. At the burial, it was a military funeral, people lined the fence and watched, and some reached through the fence and were taking his flowers. This upset me and I started to go over to stop them and my Mother said, “It’s okay, it doesn’t matter.” I told her, “But, they’re his flowers” It was a horrible and frightening and painful time. People said the usual platitudes, “God needed another angel, he’s in a better place, God knew the future and was saving him from something terrible, he’s not suffering anymore.” I didn’t buy any of it. God was just a mean and vengeful God who had made a terrible blunder. I had been raised to believe that God was vengeful and unforgiving. He had proven himself. I began to pray nightly that God would take me too and to prove how mean he was, he didn’t.
What reminded me of this time in my life was when I was trying to mail packages today. The UPS store had a power failure and could not accept any outgoing packages. Then I went to the Post Office and while I was making out the label and fixing one of the packages, a woman got in line ahead of me and she filled out her forms while standing in line (smarter than me, she was). I glanced over and she had made out the address to Sandy Hook, Newtown, CN. I thought of those small children taken so cruelly that evil day and about a God who would allow such a thing and I realized that my perception of God had changed some time ago. I no longer blame God for death but realize that God did not kill my brother, but a Kidney Disease did. God did not kill those little children, a mentally ill man who should not have had access to a military style weapon killed them. God wept for those innocent children because he knew the plans he had for them. He wept for my brother because he knew the plans he had for him. God does not kill people; God loves them and wants only the best for them. I believe in a loving God.
God, we thank you for the love you show for us daily. Be with those who are grieving, may they feel your comfort. Be with those who are fighting illness, may they feel your presence, be with those who are lost, may they find their way. Be with our church that we may be the hands and feet of Christ. Be with our Pastor and staff and our leaders, bless them in all they do. In the name of Jesus, Amen.