Mind Matters

by the Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 405
April 23, 2001


Little Lower than the Angels

I was dumbfounded when my luncheon companion stated that if he were again a minister of a church, he would strictly limit weddings. (In turn, he was astonished by my astonishment.) I said that I find this to be a very special time when individuals are willing to share their dreams and their relationship with me. I stated that I could be present in such a way as to counter negative or dismissive attitudes toward the church, so that, at some future point, they may be open to making a Christian commitment (often, of course, when a child enters their lives).

Not just at weddings, but also at the time of death, my job allows me to enter into the incredibly fascinating world of others. Invariably, it is a tender time, when I sit with a deceased's family the evening before a memorial service. Siblings relate tales of childhood; immediate family note the years of struggle, failure and accomplishment; grandchildren speak of the 'funny' things said and done. Mingled with tears of sorrow are the smiles accompanying remembrances, and the laughter over idiosyncrasies. As a fellow sojourner in the midst of others' deaths, my awe over each human's peregrinations, relationships and tenacity is refreshed. Family recitals leave me aware of the richness of a person's life, a richness that begins to fully take shape only as all those with whom the person interacted share their experiences.

I know that if the deceased were to suddenly be present to me, and I said such things to her or him, there would be an immediate disclaimer. "Bob, be less euphoric. My life was pretty ordinary, far less interesting than you are making it out to be."

Yet, I am right. For each of us life is lived day-by-day, and sorrows and joys, failures and accomplishments are seldom shooting-star affairs. Aware as we are of our own mixed motives and ambivalence, our 'good luck,' our tentative, tenuous and scared responses, and our borrowings from others, we are eager to brush aside the accolades, external or internal, that come our way. Yet, I am right.

Having the opportunity to join people at the tender times of their lives, I agree with the Psalmist: we humans "are little lower than the angels."

--Robert H. Tucker
23 April 2001
© Robert H. Tucker, 2001.

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