This morning, for the second Sunday of advent, we lit the candle of peace.
I'm not feeling the peace right now.
Let me back up.
Wednesday afternoon, I received some tough news from home. My family has been battling for information about my sister's death with the hospital, insurance company, and radiology company for almost three years. This week, my family reached a settlement, but it came without answers. I hadn't been very involved in the process, but the minute it became final, my heart ripped open. I will never know what happened to Molly. For almost three years, I've told myself I didn't care. I do. I care so much that I can hardly breathe. And that's how I have to continue, because we'll never, never know. My mom won't know. Molly's daughter won't know. It's more than I can handle.
On Thursday, we had a regular staff meeting. We started saying good bye to our coordinator, Rich, and two long-term volunteers who have become great friends. There were a few tears and a few laughs, but most of the goodbyes were to be saved for our beach retreat planned for next weekend. I bought a cake for these three lovely men, but as we got busy with the business of meeting, I forgot to take the cake out of the fridge and we never ate it.
Friday morning, I woke up early to have my four problematic wisdom teeth removed. Driving back from the oral surgeon's office, I received an email about an emergency meeting. We drove into the village and nearly the entire PDA volunteer force was gathered around the fire pit. I was still a bit foggy from the surgery, and stumbled into my trailer. Wilf and Virginia came in and shared the shocking news that Rich had been killed a one-car accident overnight. My head cleared and my heart sank. I've been a mix of denial, sadness, anger and fear ever since that moment.
Rich Cozzone was a man of faith and service. His job, like many of ours, had him driving all over the coast all the time. Bad weather, bad roads, blackberries on, crazy supplies falling from trucks, long hours, rushed schedules....
But it was Rich! It couldn't possibly happen to one of us. It just couldn't. And I was just talking with him. I mean, the man lives in the trailer next to me! We just spent time sanding the walls of a local church where he told me the story of how he met his wife. We've struggled and served next to each other these past few months, and now he's not there. And I'm just the girl who's known him for a few months. Rich leaves behind a wife, three young-adult children, a grandchild on the way, hundreds of students, and dozens of teams of volunteers, just to start the list.....
I don't understand. I can't find the peace. The joy of this season is lost on me right now.
Most weeks, this work, this place, is full of the highs and the lows. We live our entire existence in the extreme struggles and successes of lives in recovery. The beauty of people working together balances the lack of funding for building materials. Watching volunteers and homeowners from totally different backgrounds befriending one-another eases the thoughts of families spending a third Christmas in a FEMA trailer. These rationalizations are my attempt at making peace in this environment, in my own limitations, and in those of my community.
But how do you explain these seemingly senseless losses? How do you make peace with the untimely death of a family member? How do you go on without asking why? Without asking how? Where's the peace in that? I don't see it right now.
I'm angry. I am so sad. I am totally lost. And as I am writing this, I am realizing that I am also totally selfish. This shouldn't be a blog about me. It should be a prayer request for Rich's family back in Ohio and the PDA family here on the Coast. It should be a sweet letter of celebration of the life of a tender-hearted man. But I keep finding myself stuck in my own questions and doubts. It's a mess. I'm a mess. And not very peaceful. Not one bit. I want to be done with advent this year. Done.
But last week, when we started this advent season, we lit the candle of hope. And there is something I've always loved about the tradition of lighting advent candles. The quiet, the ritual, the symbolism, yes, yes, yes. But mostly, I love that each candle is a part of the whole, eventually guiding us to the Light of Christ. Even in that little circle of 5 candles, it is a journey. And that journey has an order. The peace candle can't be lit before the hope candle. That equation would never work out. So for tonight, the second Sunday of advent, instead of lighting the peace candle, in my heart I'll keep that hope candle lit. I'll keep a hope that even though I don't feel it right now, the peace candle isn't too far away after all. And maybe, maybe, maybe, through this dark time, I can keep trying to walk the journey toward that light.