By Jude Urbanski
Loss is a universal and evergreen phenomenon and I want to talk about my loss. My pastor took his own life on May 27, 2012. Of course, he was not just my pastor. He was pastor to a whole church full of people. And he was well-loved. Very well-loved.
I loved him as much as I love my brothers. In fact, it feels as if I’ve lost a brother. That’s the kind of impact my pastor’s death made on my life. And I am not alone. Others have said the same.
One of his many gifts was that he made you feel special. His life was thoroughly invested in people. He was so relational, met people wherever they were on their walk in life and before leaving them, let them know how very much God loved them.
Perhaps because of his German heritage, he felt a kindred spirit with Dietrich Bonheoffer and Martin Luther. I know he was every bit the prayer warrior these men were. Often his arms were raised heavenward as he knelt at the altar when he prayed. More than once, I’ve been the receiver of his powerful prayer to God on my behalf and have felt so nurtured from his words.
We, as a congregation, will never get over the loss of him, but we will get through it. We’ve already begun needed steps for healing and realize much time and tears will be required. We focus on celebrating his rich and full life and take comfort in knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not even suicide.
Our Loss One Year Later
No, we haven’t gotten over our loss of Pastor John, but we have learned to live with it. That is what must be done. If you’ve suffered loss, you know what I mean.
After our loss, we as a congregation participated in forums focusing on reasons for suicide. We tried to relate his downward, health spiral to such an unbelievable decision. An on-going grief group formed. We gave teens of our congregation every chance possible to come forth, understand and heal. We created prayer shawls and prayer squares to comfort.
We hugged one another and hugged often. We vacillated. We became tolerant. We ached. We healed.
Most creative of all is that we made Pastor’s old office a sparkling-new, small chapel open to anyone, to our other pastors and congregants. I was part of the Healing Team organizing this space and can say it has been part of my healing also. The space, called the Chapel of Living Waters, is a beautiful compilation of many people’s efforts. The donations, the art work and the sweat equity were wonderful.
Chapel of the Living Waters
And, you know what? I’m decided next year this is place my husband and I will repeat our 25th wedding vows. Just need to let him know! Life is good.
Jude Urbanski, pen name for Judy Martin-Urban, is a multi-published, award-winning author who writes women’s fiction with inspirational romance elements. She weaves stories about strong characters spinning tragedy into triumph with God’s help. She is published in fiction and nonfiction. Jude was a columnist for Maximum Living, a Gannett magazine, for five years. She is a member of ACFW and National League of American Pen Women. Her latest book Nurtured in Purple is book two in The Chronicles of Chanute Crossing and is published by Desert Breeze Publishing in eBook and soon-to-be print format. Find Jude at: http://www.judeurbanski.com