Saturday, March 27, 2010
And again. A young life gone before we had the chance to enjoy the fullness of his gifts and grace, before he had the time to realize his dreams, fullfill all his passions and love. Too soon, too soon, we know. Peder Hedberg died of cancer earlier this week. He was barely out of college, a bubbling giving loving guy whose smile, even looking out from a photo, is so brilliant you can't help but smile back. (Photos coming, hopefully soon) Peder is the son of old friends, Hope and Paul, with whom we went to grad school and even worked on-campus work-study jobs. As these things go, we've drifted off to new vocations, locations, and close friends. But I still count them among the best people I've ever known and whose influence on me really stuck. They don't deserve this -- of course, no one does. But my heart just aches and aches for them. Please remember to pray for them. I never met Peder -- we were on the far side of the moon by the time he was born, a year before my oldest daughter -- but I can see his parents in his face and in all of the tender and funny tributes that have been written about him this week. All of us who missed knowing Peder really missed something unique, someone very special. Funny how these tragic moments bring us back into the presence of life we have lived a long time ago, smiles and laughter, earnest sincerity, sparkling intelligence. Hope and I spent endless hours typing invitations to Gala Dinners and Concerts and Receptions and later, the thank you letters in the school's Development Office. We were blown away by these new-fangled typewriters that allowed us to input the text of the letter and then, one by one, address each letter by hand and push a button to produce the rest. Were they IBM Selectric's? I don't even remember. Proto computers. We were there in the office to hear the news on the day Elvis died. And Hope, who is a therapist/counselor introduced me to Murray Bowen and family systems theory in the early days of his career, the year his most important book came out. It is the only book on counseling / therapy that has been in my small collection of must-have-availabe's at all times through the years of my professional career. It changed everything. I was grateful to get in on his wisdom at the very start of that career and to use his approach to family -- and other -- systems whenever the occasion called for it, which was often but not quite always. Paul is a chaplain and a trainer and supervision of chaplains. His gentle spirit and clear-headed thinking always pushed discussions further and deeper than we might have been content to let them be. We were two couples who managed to put in our years in "Fertility Flats" -- married student housing -- without doing our part to populate the neighborhood. It was a good time. And of course, they were parents to two boys. Wonderful parents. It is not just the earthquakes and violence that rip our children from us too soon. It is also accident, illness, flukes. We don't count one loss as more important than another, depending upon the circumstances. Our children are always in the process of moving on, out into the world. And that is of course dangerous. And exhilarating. Our children don't belong to us. They belong to the world, to themselves, to the One who breathed life into them and called them good. They are original blessings to be cherished and held, but, as it turns out, not held too tightly. Not forever. I want to put my children -- who are not children anymore -- into protective bubbles. But even that won't save them. We know this. And don't like it much. A sparkling soul was taken from our midst this week. We grieve, we mourn, we -- even we who didn't know him personally -- cry over the loss. Yet we celebrate this gift of God's grace to his family and to all of us, and the dynamic, fully alive living he did for all his years. I rather get the idea that he didn't miss a thing. Not anything important anyway. May it be so for our children, regardless the number of their years, and may it be so for us. Join, if you would, in remembering Peder tomorrow as a community gathers to grieve, give thanks and say goodbye. And pray for his parents, his brother, his girlfriend, and all who mourn, consoling them with the consolation we ourselves have received from God. Peace to his memory. And to my friends, Hope and Paul.