Friday, July 3, 2015

The Memorial Service for Jared Fahey

Memorial Service for
Jared Matthew Fahey
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church
July 3, 2015

None of us want to be here this afternoon. This is not how it is supposed to be. We should not here, mourning the loss of a thirty-seven year old man—a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, an uncle, a friend.  

What most of us are asking, no doubt, this morning is “why?” This “Why” is probably the deepest and most honest prayer we can pray.  And the answer to this prayer is not clear to us.

There is no easy answer to the question. I wish I could give an easy answer.

All I know is this: What Jared—and those who knew him and loved him—had to endure and live with was an illness. A life-threatening, destructive illness, just as lethal, just as vile as cancer.  That illness was depression.  And for someone like Jared, who was so ultra-sensitive, who was so brilliant, who was so unique, this world and everything about it could seem at times like a cruel and terrible place. 

When one is so ultra-sensitive, one has to find ways to protects oneself. Often the best way is so isolate. To become a loner. To turn away from family and friends and God, because dealing with all those things becomes too much.

Still, we realize there is no answer to the question.  One would think that, by now, we would have answer. Why would things like this happen?  But we don’t.

What we can do, however, is cling to whatever faith we have. And in these moments, this faith can keep us afloat.

Jared was vocal often in these last years of his disbelief.  He did not consider himself a Christian. He was a self-declared atheist. I am one of those rare Christians who actually has a deep and abiding respect for atheists. I have lots of them in my life. And I love them dearly. I understand how easy it is to be one. I mean, let’s face it: it is easy to look into the void and see nothing.  It’s actually sometimes very hard to believe, to be a Christian, to do all the things Christians are told to do.

But because I know so many atheists, I also don’t worry about them or the loss of their souls.  I know that for many Christians, his declaration of atheism is tantamount to saying that Jared turned his back on Christ. But for us, for us Episcopalians, we can take hope in the overriding fact that: Just because any of us may turn our backs on Christ, Christ never turns his back on us. Christ is with us even when we don’t want Christ with us.

I looked back at the records of St. Stephen’s and found that Jared was baptized right here at St. Stephen’s, in the very font we passed as we came in today. He was baptized here on Feb. 5, 1978. I can tell you this:  On that, in this church, in that font, something incredible happened. It might not have seemed like much to anyone looking on. It might have seemed like a quaint little ritual, with some water and some nice words.

But what happened there, in those waters, in this church, on that day was important.  When Jared was baptized, he was marked with the sign of the Cross.  We say when we mark the newly baptized with the sign of the Cross, that the newly baptized is sealed by the Holy Spirit and “marked at Christ’s own forever.”

At his baptism, Jared was truly marked as Christ’s own forever.  It was something that could never be taken away from him.  That relationship that was formed at his baptism has been there throughout his entire life, whether he was fully aware of it or not, whether he wanted it or not.  

Christ never turned away from Jared. Not once, never, in all of those years. And if you asked me where God was last Monday, I can tell you. Christ was right there with him, right besides Jared, even despite that darkness that was encroaching upon him, even despite the depression, which had reached its inevitable breaking point.  Christ was there with him that day. And I have no doubt that Christ welcomed him and that the first words Christ said to Jared were words of love and consolation and welcome.

In a few moments, we will all pray the same words together.  As we commend Jared to Christ’s loving and merciful arms, we will pray,

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life eternal.

It is easy for us to say those words without really thinking about them. But those are not light words. Those are words that take on deeper meaning for us now than maybe at any other time. Where Jared is now—in those caring and able hands of Christ—there is no sorrow or pain. There is no sighing.  But there is life eternal.

There is no more darkness in Jared’s life. There is no more depression.  There are no more tears in his eyes.

For us, who are left behind, it isn’t as easy. We will shed many more tears for Jared in the days and weeks and years ahead.  But we can take consolation in all of this.  Because we know that Jared and all our loved ones have been received into Christ’s arms of mercy, into Christ’s “blessed rest of everlasting peace.”

This is what we cling to on a day like today. This is where we find our strength.  This what gets us through.

No, we might not have the answer we want to our question of Why. But we do know that—despite the pain and the frustration, despite the sorrow we all feel—somehow, in the end, Christ is with us and Christ is with Jared and that makes all the difference.

For Jared, sorrow and pain are no more.  Rather, Jared has life eternal. And that is what awaits all of us as well.

We might not be able to say “Alleluia” with any enthusiasm today.  But we can find a glimmer of light in the darkness of this day. And in that light is Christ, and in that light Christ is holding Jared firmly to himself.

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