I didn’t want to go on. I wanted to stop and go back…a lot. The path up Ka’ala, the highest peak on this island, was more than I felt I could do. But my friends let me take my time. They called out when I lagged far behind to see how I was doing. They encouraged me all along the way. Yet there were times when I was afraid. Every slip, each little tumble, the many skids along the part-mud/part-boulder terrain, held the potential for the mortal danger to which far too many on this island have succumbed.
But I was not alone. Yes, I had my two friends with me, friends I love very much. But I took someone else with me on the ascent. A few days ago, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. announced that the ashes of Matthew Shepard would be interred at the cathedral. Matthew was murdered on October 12, 1998 in a heinous, vicious, and senseless attack. Though many of the details of the night of his murder by his two male attackers are obscured, he was targeted and tortured because he was gay, left to die tied to a fence until he succumbed to his injuries. His death sent shockwaves through a nation, through a world, that seemed to wake up to a truth too hard to see.
But on my ascent up the mountain, when I thought about turning back, when I thought about giving up, it was not Matthew I thought of. I thought of his mom, Judy. I thought of the matter-of-fact way she explained to the press this week her relief. She had kept Matthew’s ashes in her home for twenty years because she knew that any burial site she selected would shortly be desecrated. I thought of the kind of journey the last two decades must have been for her knowing this. There was no way to give up and turn around for her. And so I climbed.
It was a mostly clear day, but when my two friends and I passed through the fence and reached the summit, we entered into a mist so thick that we could not see more than a few dozen yards in any direction. It was another world, another place. Resting as we were in the clouds, I thought of Matthew, his mom Judy, and that Matthew’s remains will soon move into the heart of a nation that seems at times to want to tear itself apart. But my musing was interrupted by offers from my friends to share their food, laughing, and throwing banana peels at each other.
On the treacherous descent from the clouds, I thought about the decades a mother spent protecting her child, even in death, and I felt safe. As my legs reached more solid ground, I thought about the relief that must come with knowing a child will soon be safe in a world that was not safe for him, and I felt peace. And as I rounded the final corner to the kind, smiling faces of my two friends, I felt at home. And so I wondered about a church that might seem so cold or so distant to some, warming at long last to the touch of one of the precious children of this world finding home, finding peace, finding safety…finding rest in its arms at last.
Rest now, faithful servants. Your time of trial is done.
Rev. T. J.