I called my mother on my way home from a fairly awful day at work, only to hear her crying. When asked what was wrong, she tearfully explained to me that less than an hour before my calling, Melvin Sanborn had died. The tears came instantly though her words did not fully register immediately.
Mr. Sanborn was an incredible man of God. We grew up living down the street from him and his wife, Marjorie, who was one of the warmest people I've known. I loved them both. So much. Mrs. Sanborn was a greeter at our church for as long as I can remember, and she was the main reason our church had its reputation for being one of the friendliest, most welcoming churches ever. Mr. Sanborn built our church. With some help, of course; but he was at the forefront of planning and laboring over the house of God that replaced our gymnasium worship center. He used to read the Bible through every year, and in the past several years, he began to read it through in different versions. More than that, both Mr. and Mrs. Sanborn had been special to me. I distinctly remember when I was very small going down the street to spend time with them at their house. One year, Mrs. Sanborn gave me four giant teddy bears to play with; they were my favorites for several years and received much love and play time. In more recent years, Mr. Sanborn was always a friendly, familiar face when I would go home to visit my home church. He always had a ready hug and wanted to hear what I was up to in life. He reminded me a lot of my grandfather.
Mrs. Sanborn died a year ago in November, and my heart broke then for all the people, including myself, who would miss her warm smile and even warmer Sabbath hugs. And tonight another one of God's bright lights has entered into a peaceful rest. And tonight my heart breaks again. For Mr. Sanborn's family and friends who will miss him dearly while we anxiously await the joy that will come with the morning of God's return.
I thought it fitting also to share this section from a book I really enjoy. This particular excerpt is from a chapter on Jewish mourning rituals and more specifically, the Mourner's Kaddish (prayer).
"Not only is the community present for one's mourning, God is present too. God is ubiquitous in Jewish bereavement because of the Kaddish. Countless commentators have observed that the Kaddish is a curious mourner's prayer, because it says nothing about mourning. It is rather a prayer about God, describing Him as magnified and sanctified and worthy to be praised. It is not a prayer of rent garments and commemoration, but rather simply four verses of praise to God. 'Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One. Blessed is He, beyond any blessing or song.' As one mourner noted, the Kaddish is really 'a Gloria.' Even in the pit, even in depression and loss and nonsense, still we respond to God with praise. This is not to say that the mourner should not feel what he feels-- anger, disbelief, hatred. He can feel those things (and shout them out to God; God can take it). You do not have to feel praise in the intense moments of mourning, but the praise is still true, and insisting upon it over and over, twice a day every day, ensures that eventually you will come to remember the truth of those praises." ~Lauren F. Winner, Mudhouse Sabbath