Thursday, August 25, 2011

Words for those who have fallen

August 18th, 2011

We are asked today to honor the courage of brave men and women, but at the same time to hold in our hearts the grief we feel over those we have lost. Courage comes in many forms and all of us think we know what it is. There are those who speak truth to power and weather the consequences. Each night on the news we see citizens of Syria and Libya who protect the safety of family and clan and pay dearly for their actions.

When we think of family and clan we think of our own armed services and the men and women who choose to put their lives on the line for their brothers and sisters and by extension for the rest of us.

Near to us all are those members of the Navy Seals who died in Afghanistan as they returned from a rescue operation involving Army Rangers and Afghan fighters. Today we think of those who died and remember that courage is not simply a trait called upon in moments of danger. Courage is a quality we all call upon as we live these difficult days.

It is bittersweet to be asked to celebrate courage and to mourn loss. MIT is good at lots of things, but we are not good at living with the contradictions of life and death. We solve problems; this is a problem that eludes us. What we are called upon to do today is to live with loss while honoring courage. We live with the aches we feel for the faces unseen. To wince at the memories we cannot talk about with the familiar other who has gone on.

How to do that? It may be that it is time to celebrate by completing the projects begun with others, taking the long planned trip, finishing the deferred dream. We honor those who have gone on by remembering them, but we do more than honor them when we complete their work. To finish things undone is sacred work. This is our challenge today, to hold in tension appreciation for courage and our grief over loss while completing good work begun by those who now cannot complete it. That is our challenge.

Let us pray:

God, hear our prayer for those we have lost.
Grant them peace and give us the courage to carry on.
This is our prayer.