(The following is adapted from a eulogy I gave for my friend Mary Pittari, who died earlier this month from ovarian cancer. It can apply to those who died in the shooting Newtown, Conn., and the bombings in Boston.)
I’m here to speak about God in the face of sorrow, grief, bitterness and deep loss. I’m here to speak about God in a situation when God did not rescue Mary from an illness, or situation, that some would say was not fair. It’s sometimes hard to speak about God when we’ve been taught that God liberated the slaves, that God brought them back from exile, that, God, through Jesus, gave sight to the blind, healed the infirm and raised the dead — but not Mary.
When I was a child I believed in the Superman-God who would come in and save us from our bad situations. I believed in Mr. Magic Man who would do strange and awesome things that defy facts. And, truth be told, I still hope and pray for miracles in bad situations. But a miracle is just that: very rare and out of our control.
I have come to understand that God is not an object out there. Rather, God is the universal experience of benevolence and compassion. It is that oceanic feeling of total oneness and solidarity that comes to us. It just comes to us — sometimes through people, sometimes through creation, sometimes from within ourselves. We don’t conjure it up. It just comes.
God is the experience that fires us from within when we see injustice and hatred and cruelty. God is the courage that we discover within ourselves that compels us to make crooked paths straight.
There are no explanations for why Mary had to suffer. But our lives reaffirm our connection to her: Mary loved us, cared for us, trusted us, befriended us, blessed us. We, in return, did the same for her. She added to our life, and we added to hers. Together we practiced the presence of God.
Mary is now a chapter in a grand adventure, a book of life, a story about the evolutionary process of a God who experiences embodiment through us. The scientists are right: Mary is fundamentally stardust. That’s what crafted her body. But the mystics are also right: The stardust itself is holy.
Tonight we let go of her mortality, but we are not letting her go into mere memory. We release her into the immortality of a personal process older than stardust. We release her into the personal presence that we name God: a mystery through which we say, “All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.”
Thank you, Mary, good and faithful friend. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for animating her body. Thank you for sheltering her soul in death, until that great day when all living beings experience the grand reunion of a new creation.