Yesterday was our celebration of Affirmation of Baptism, or confirmation, at church. A group of twenty six ninth graders stood before the congregation and affirmed for themselves the promises that were made on their behalf in baptism. People kept coming up to me and telling me just how beautiful and perfect and personal the service was. And, it was. Things went off (mostly) without a hitch. At the same time, it was very different for me this year.
I’ve been in charge of the confirmation program at Epiphany for the past five years, since I came on staff as the Director of Youth & Family Ministries. This year was the fifth class of confirmands that I have watched grow in faith and community and affirm their faith through the Affirmation of Baptism. This was the year that I crossed the threshold of 100 young people who have been confirmed at Epiphany since I started. Since I started at Epiphany in 2011, I have been witness to 106 young people affirming their baptismal promises. One hundred and six. So, I did a little research this morning (which didn’t take much because I happen to be a little organized for work, but you know, that’s what my brain does this morning).
Who was the one hundredth confirmand to have hands laid on since I started at Epiphany? A young man named Alexander. Yep, that’s right. There were two Alexanders in yesterday’s class.
I managed to hold it together through the service yesterday without losing it. There was certainly a heaviness in my heart, knowing that our Alexander will never get to affirm those baptismal promises for himself. He will never get to be surrounded by family and friends and godparents for the laying on of hands. His baptismal pictures and high school freshmen pictures will never flash across the screen in celebration of his confirmation. He will never get to see his mama cry tears of pride and joy at the singing of “Borning Cry”. He will never get to make a Discipleship Project to have on display for the congregation to see how much he has grown and matured in faith.
It’s not fair. It’s just. Not. Fair.
Yesterday should have been different. Our friends should have been sitting in the pews holding Alexander while we celebrated joyfully with 26 confirmands and their families. He should have been hearing all my Reformation Sunday jokes for the first time. He should have been a witness to the laying on of hands of the 100th confirmand in my time at Epiphany–the one with whom he shares a name. It just should have been different.
I was chatting with a friend last night whose son was one of the twenty six confirmed yesterday, processing life lately and processing the day. I mentioned that the day seemed easier to me than it should have been. There were so many potential triggers yesterday. Songs like Borning Cry, which has always made me cry anyway. Songs like Give Me Jesus, which we sang at Alexander’s memorial service just three weeks ago. The presentation of candidates for Affirmation of Baptism, which included not one, but two, Alexanders. A “then and now” slideshow of baptism and baby photos alongside current photos of the young men and women affirming their faith. And yet, somehow I managed to make it through the day.
It’s weird. I almost feel a little guilt when I think that things should be a certain way and then they aren’t. Like, seriously. My son died this year. I shouldn’t be able to listen to certain songs without crying, but somehow I do. I shouldn’t be able to hold it together as candidates are presented for affirmation of baptism, but somehow I did. How is it?
How is it that it’s been almost four months since we lost Alexander? How is it that it’s been only four months? How is it that there are days when I don’t feel on the verge of tears all day? How is it that there are still days when I do? How is it that I can be so sad and at the same time so full of joy for these young people who I love like my own? How is it that I can feel so empty and so full at the same time?
So, today, I’m clinging to the words in this song by Matthew West. Words that my friend quoted to me last night as I was processing so much about making it through a potentially hard day. Words that one of my youth group kids shared with me after he got to meet Matthew West (his favorite FAVORITE singer) in person. Words that I am needing to hear right now on a daily basis.