14 April 2009

More Reasons

This Easter really was different from all others for me, and not just for the reasons in my video post. I spent the day doing things I'd never done on an Easter Sunday before. Each one made the day a lot more meaningful than other Easters and together they added up to a day I'll remember for a long time.

First was attending Easter services at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. I tell you, the Episcopalians know how to do Christian festivals right. In addition to the booming pipe organ and a packed cathedral's worth of thousands of people singing joyously, they had the brass section leads and the timpani from the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra playing too. Imagine how that sounded echoing through a great stone & concrete cathedral. Sun glowing brilliantly through stained glass, exultant joyful noise like that echoing around, it was thrilling. THAT is how Easter hymns should sound.

Second I actually don't want to say much about. Suffice it to say that it was a beautiful sunny day and I spent a good chunk of it not cloistered in a soundproofed wallboard chapel dozing through repetitive lessons, but out in a huge city surrounded by God's children of all ages, colors, economic strata, origins, and experiences, as I like to think the Savior would have been, and I found opportunities to act as I think He would have acted. And I saw others doing the same. Wonderful and heartwarming. Mahler on the iPod as usual, symphony chorus singing the early Christian hymn Gloria Patri ("Glory to the Father"). Which matched my mood of exultant gratitude after that magnificent Easter service as I walked through that sunny, windswept city surrounded by so many of my brothers & sisters from all over the earth.

The third was a much more somber experience, but appropriate too for Easter. I discovered last week that I work just a few miles from the Mormon chapel on whose front steps Stuart Matis killed himself. This is tragic, hallowed ground. The last thing I did on the evening of Easter Sunday was to go there and sit and think on those very same steps. I wanted to be there in that same spot, to see what he had seen. I pondered what I knew and had read of his life and his struggles, so many of which I also feel. The Mahler 8th Symphony was not right for this; I switched to the MoTab singing "Consider the Lilies":

Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow, how they grow.
Consider the birds in the sky,
How they fly, how they fly.
He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky.
And he will feed those who trust him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sheep of his fold,
How they follow where he leads.
Though the path may wind across the mountains,
He knows the meadows where they feed.
He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky,
And he will feed those who trust him,
And guide them with his eye.

Consider the sweet, tender children
Who must suffer on this earth.
The pains of all of them he carried
From the day of his birth.
He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And he will heal those who trust him,
And make their hearts as gold.

It wasn't till the choir sang "Though the path may wind across the mountains, He knows the meadows where they feed" that I realized what I had been carrying inside for months as a result of reading Stuart's story and, sadly, stories of others like him. But it burst out anyway. I sat on those very steps where he'd taken his last look at mortal life, put my head down on folded arms and sobbed until my gut ached. For his pain, his frustration, his anger at trying to be everything the Church told him he should aspire to with only misery for reward. For his sense of betrayal. For the loss which his departure means to we who are left behind. For other of my brothers, like Doug Stewart, buried so near my mother far away, and for all of the "sweet tender children" who left just like Stuart did and for the same reasons. I had not realized till then how keenly I felt their loss. I was truly wracked with grief and there was no holding it back any longer.

Gradually the gut-wrenching convulsions subsided. The tears still flowed, though, as I heard the lyrics "He will heal those who trust him, and make their hearts as gold." How I pray that means Stuart and all those like him who've gone on ahead. I remembered reading a quote from Stuart's mother that the Spirit whispered to her in the temple that he was all right. And gradually my tears stopped too. Peace and calm returned. I arose, walked slowly to my car, and drove home.

A day later, my gut still hurts and I still have that feeling of exhaustion that comes after huge stress and its release. I truly had no idea that I'd felt any of this so deeply, but obviously I did. But what I also have is a renewed desire to stand up against the ignorance and the prejudice that drove Stuart Matis away from all of us, and to do whatever I could to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. A greater willingness to speak truth to power, if necessary, and to anyone else who tries to perpetuate the causes of his pain. A greater trust that God and the Savior know intimately all of the desires of our hearts, that they love us no matter what, and want us to be happy. A greater gratitude for the Savior's atonement that makes it possible for all this earthly pain to be healed and for us all to rise one day as He did.

I hadn't really planned on going there, it was a spur of the moment thing. But how appropriate that I should do this on Easter Sunday. A day when incredible tragedy was overcome by unbelievable miracle, one that is a free gift to all of us as well. Thanks to that gift and its giver, someday Stuart and I will meet. I will embrace him and say that his departure was not in vain, for it inspired me and many others to be strong. And we will be able to strike up the friendship that for now has only to wait patiently. As I do.


Ezra said...

When I read about Stuart for the first time, I was actually procrastinating at work, and I practically started bawling right there. I still cried, but it took everything I had to regain composure.

Stories like that are the most tragic of any I know, because someone would rather die than continue to suffer through life--when they are such a beacon of love and hope to others, and the pain induced to everyone when the deed is done.

And it's all because of a lack of love and understanding.


Daniel said...

I wanted to visit that chapel when I visited San Jose/San Fransisco last year, but I didn't get the chance. I wanted to pay tribute to him and pay respects to what was a horrible loss.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the best easter message i have heard in a long time.

2Mod4U said...

Thank you for sharing those insights, and your sacred experience there.

I have to say that your sharing the lilies of the field, really made the spirit speak to me even more powerfully and poignantly.

Thanks again.