My suburb of Mentone was struck with awful news on Sunday evening. A teenage boy was killed by a man driving erratically on the wrong side of Nepean Hwy. Lachlan McLaren died at the scene, outside my local supermarket, and his girlfriend sustained injury.
It was his 16th birthday.
Despite some 24,000 people living in the suburbs of Mentone and Parkdale, I have been surprised by how interwoven peoples lives are in this community. I never had the privilege of knowing this young man but my eldest son was in the same Grade 5/6 class as Lachlan in 5 years ago. All my children attended the school where Lachlan’s mum teaches, and we have friends who know the family and we know children who attend Mentone Grammar School. These layers of connections intensify the sense of shock and sadness that our community is experiencing this week. Most of us barely know each other and yet we are interconnected. Of course, our shock is nothing compared to the grief that a family is now undergoing just a few streets away from where I live.
As a dad living in Mentone, my heart goes out to the McLarens and my prayers are with them. All parents know how precious their children are. It is not for us to second guess the sorrow and distress of another, for each person’s grief is profoundly personal, and yet we want to share the burden that must be carried.
As a pastor of a church in Mentone, I have sat in many homes over the years with grieving families and conducted many funerals. Each one is accompanied by great sadness. Trying to make sense of the incomprehensible is natural but not always possible. It is often impossible for us to offer words to what is inconceivable. Sometimes we must simply sit in the dust and mourn with them.
I recall how the Bible recounts the occasion when Jesus hears news that his friend Lazarus has died. When Jesus arrived at the family home, he saw Lazarus’ sisters weeping and the community grieving. We read, Jesus was “deeply move in spirit and troubled”.
We are then told in what is the shortest verse of the Bible and yet one of its of tender, “Jesus wept”.
He wept because he loved his friend. Jesus wept because death is awful. Indeed, the Bible describes death as God’s enemy. As Jesus grieved he also knew that the grave is not the end, death will not win in the end.
Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Life is fleeting. Life is inestimable.
Parents, hug your children and tell them that you love them. Teenagers, yes it may feel a little awkward, but let your mum and dad have that moment to give you that hug.
Teenagers, tell your friends how you appreciate them.
I thank God that he hates death. I thank God that he understands grief; his only Son died on a cross. And I thank God that because of Jesus he will one day remove death forever. I thank God that in Jesus he promises resurrection and reconciliation.