A family friend, Scott Gallagher, died this last week in Durango. He was bicycling home in the early morning dark, when he was hit by a car (https://gofund.me/0f2971aa)
He worked for the Fire Department and was highly regarded and well loved by many in this town in southern Colorado. Scott and my son grew up together in the Bay Area in those formative years of early teens and on. Scott had a wonderful spirit about him, as if he were too good for this world, giving, cheerful, smiling. I looked him up in some old photo albums and found a few images I sent to my son Tom to be added to the collection they were creating for Scott’s Memorial service. The photos brought back memories of Tom in those days and the powerful and wonderful influence the Church had upon us.
There is a photo of the boys with our Bishop Morse in Tahoe one summer. Another was taken in the Berkeley Seminary Library. I know they went on an Outward Bound adventure at some point but couldn’t find an image of that rugged trip. They loved the outdoors and as adults gravitated to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, probably among the most rugged of God’s mountains, rising to 14,000 feet. They hiked, skied, snowboarded, and earned enough to get by to snow camp the next day.
Along the way, my son Tom married and today has a beautiful family in Boulder. He knuckled down in school – even with the mountains calling him outdoors – and earned his Landscape Architecture degree. Today he has a design-build business, a perfect fit for his natural talents. Scott joined the Durango Fire Department, married Karen, and they had a beautiful daughter, Gwen. My heart aches when I think of them now, along with his mother, Sue, and sister, Lisa.
Mothers never cease being mothers. And I suppose it is true that fathers never cease caring for their families, perhaps in a different way. And so today’s parable rung true this morning in our chapel, the Prodigal Son, told by Our Lord Jesus. It is a story of wrong turns and a story of backtracking and finding the right path to be on. It is a story of confession and repentance and forgiveness. And it is a story of sibling rivalry and jealousy exhibited by the older brother. All very human temptations. All familiar wrong turns. But the father welcomes the son home in the end, just as Our Heavenly Father will welcome each one of us. I can see Bp. Morse of blessed memory welcoming Scott, wrapping his arms about him.
And tomorrow is the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the celebration of her rising bodily into Heaven, rather than her body dying as happens to most of us. It is a lovely belief, not supported by Scripture but by tradition and the many stories of Mary in Ephesus, where she spent her last days, finally in a cave in the mountainside. We visited the site once, where a lovely order of nuns run the shrine that looks down upon the old port of Ephesus and its amphitheater, where St. Paul preached to the goldsmiths (and they didn’t like what he said). Today the port has been renamed Kusadasi and is part of Turkey. In his incredible novel, Father Elijah: An Apocalypse, Michael D. O’Brien, tells the story beautifully.
Mary falls asleep and is carried into Heaven. Some traditions call it the “Dormition of Mary”, her falling asleep. One tradition says that since no one ever claimed her bones as relics, her body has never been found. But there are many other traditions that also affirm her entering Heaven body and soul. In our Anglican tradition, it is what we call a “pious opinion”, something we may believe or not.
Mary is our mother. She knows what it is to lose a son, a beloved, and probably only, son. She shares our worries and sufferings, the loves and fears of mothers everywhere. She is our humanity in holy form, reaching out to us, knowing as she knew what it is like for a sword to pierce the heart, for a son to die.
At times like this, I look to the Church, and I am thankful I have her prayers and support to make sense of things. I enter the hymns so rich in poetry and I understand a bit better what it means to love. For to love means to deny oneself in a certain way. To love is to suffer.
But it’s all worth it. In the end, at the last days, when we gather by the river that runs before the throne of God, we will know and we will understand what Love truly is.
Rest in Peace, Scott, and may light perpetual shine upon you.