Death Drawing Near

Yesterday I attended the funeral service of Chaz Woodson, taken at the too-young age of 38 by an heart episode in his sleep. Chaz had been the varsity boys’ soccer coach for the last several years at Liberty High School in Colorado Springs, where he had been teaching math and had played soccer 20 years ago.

In fact, my son had been his teammate on the team that lost in the state championship game their junior year to finish the season 18-1-1, and won the state championship their senior year with an unblemished 20-0 record. At the funeral gathering yesterday, a number of the boys who were on the team were in attendance, coming from other states, as well as close to home.

I watched them reunite before and after the service, attended by at least a thousand people. For a number of them, this was the first time they had seen each other in years, some not since high school. They had progressed in their lives, taken different career paths, many now with families. They had come back together to remember a teammate who, ironically, was coaching the same team that had bonded them together so many years ago.

Death draws us near. It’s a time of mourning, and yet we draw strength from the others who are traveling the same path. Death confuses us, and yet, refocuses us. It causes us to pause and it leads us to reassess.

Death elicits anger, as we see in the actions to the school shooting in Texas this week, but it also reignites our love and compassion.

At Chaz’s funeral, the tissues were being pulled from the numerous boxes situated in numerous locations around the sanctuary. Tears brought on by sorrow mixed with tears created by laughter. The sweetness of remembering was evident as former teammates hugged and gave slaps on the backs to each other afterwards in the church foyer.

I’ve officiated at a number of funerals over the years where sadness was layered on top of sadness. At those gatherings, no one experienced or shared the sweetness of the moments that had been a part of the departed’s life. I would leave gatherings such as those wondering if the person had ever lived or, on the other hand, whether those in attendance had ever lived life with him or her.

Chaz’s service was punctuated by stories of his impact and shared experiences. He had lived life, loved family, and been the creator of sweet memories. Death draws us near and, once again, draws out the reasons we live.

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