Tonight I stood in line with my wife and five boys for three and a half hours. The line snaked through a hot stuffy building. I was wearing a suit. I don't like suits.
At the end of the three and a half hours I shook a father's hand, and gave him a hug. I mumbled words that were far too inadequate to a mother who looked bone tired. And then my family and I stopped for a moment in front of a casket. We looked briefly at a boy who left his family and friends far too early. Three hours in line, and it was all over in two minutes. Was it worth it?
Because that is what a community does. When my wife broke the news to us at dinner Saturday night, my seven-year-old burst into tears. He hung his head and sobbed. He didn't know the boy who had passed away, but he knew he was "from our church". That meant the boy was a member of our community. And so my son cried.
A community gathers when tragedy strikes. They mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. And when it seems no words can ease the pain and grief, still they come together in hopes that the small actions--all combined--will somehow lift the broken heart. The short note. The pink wristband. The flowers. All symbols of unity. Symbols of community.
We'll miss you Gabe. And we'll stand by your family to help them however we can.