It's been quite a few days. In spirit and in truth...I'm exhausted.
For those who don't know him, Kory Ambler passed away tragically on Christmas Eve. You can read the obituary here.
Kory was the fiance of Jodi K. Newell, a long-time friend and a part of our North Street Community. Kory worshiped with us several times over the last year and a half. I got to dedicate their son, Corado (and Jodi is due with their second son, Benjamin Anthony on 1/4). I got to know Kory over the last year and a half as I talked with he and Jodi about family, marriage, life, and God. As you might imagine, over the last several days, I've seen numerous pictures of Kory on Facebook and at the various funeral activities. That's my favorite picture of he and Jodi to the right.
I had the incredible honor of overseeing much of Kory's funeral services. Even now as I type this, I am amazed at the outpouring of love and support for Kory and his family. The visiting hours yesterday went from 3:00-8:00 ("officially"), but there was a line waiting from before 2:45 and it still wrapped well around the building when I slipped out at 8:15.
This morning, the funeral procession from the funeral home was dozens of cars long. While Father Dan could probably give me a better estimate, I would guess that the funeral mass at Sacred Heart in Weymouth Landing saw at least 800-1000 people in attendance. It was a somber yet beautiful gathering of worship, culminating in the sacrament of communion.
After communion, the family had asked me to speak briefly about Kory. In some ways, it didn't feel right, as I've only known him for one and a half years, and there were well over a thousand people there who've known him for life. Needless to say, I was humbled. I am thankful to the family for the opportunity. At the same time, I appreciate the grace and hospitality extended by Father Dan Riley and staff at Sacred Heart. They really made me feel a part of the whole funeral mass, recognizing our roles together.
Anyway, I'm posting two of the things I read for the services over the last two days here. It's pretty much for Jodi's future reference, as I don't expect that she would have heard a word I said today. Jodi...peace to you.
“Lord of Life, death scares us. We know we must die, but we have become skilled at living in a manner that ignores that stubborn fact. After all, most of us are not really old enough yet to have to face our deaths. Death happens to the old, not us, who are thus condemned to live as if we are perpetually young. Yet death slinks even into our young lives. We do not like it. We try to hide its presence by not being present to those who are dying and avoiding those who must be present to the dying. We therefore pray for your unfailing and sustaining presence for this family. Give them the same love and courage that sustained them and Kory in life. May that same courage find a home in our lives, that we may come to fear you more than our own deaths and thus be enabled to be present to one another. In Christ, Amen.”
(Adapted from Stanley Hauerwas' Prayers Plainly Spoken)
Funeral Mass Reflections:
Before anything else, let me be as bold as to offer a line from a song by Coldplay...words, I think, that speak honestly, yet hopefully:
"Just because I'm losing...doesn't mean I'm lost."
For me to stand here and say that I know Kory under the circumstances of those in this place of worship is quite presumptuous. The circumstances of being with all of you: his friends and all of his cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents and of course his siblings, his parents, and his beloved Jodi, there's a lot more to Kory than the year and a half or so that I've known him. So, there are a lot of things that I don't know...about Kory, both the individual, and the greater story of his life.
Yet, in the time that I have known him, in the conversations that we did have, I came to know some things, and it's a couple of very important things about Kory that I want to reflect on just for a minute this morning.
1. He was an example for us of graciousness, thoughtfulness, and a gentleman-ness that is so often lost in our society today.
It was soon after Kory and Jodi came back to the right coast that my wife, Meghan went to a baby shower for them. It was really Meghan's first interactions with Kory, and her reflections on the day began with how wonderful Kory was, to his family, and to Jodi. Whether it was visiting people in the hospital, shoveling snow for Friends of the Homeless of the South Shore, or looking out for those who are usually over-looked, Kory had a keen eye and heart to help people out. May the rest of us live up to his example.
2. He loved his family...
It was Sunday, November 9th, when many of us gathered for Corado's 1st birthday. I was yet again struck with the enormity of his family. My twin daughters and I were lost in a sea of loved ones and other children on that day. And in my conversations with him about Jodi and Corado, his great love for them was more evident to me than anything else I will say about him.
Kory was blessed and he loved his family. And it's obvious to me that he was loved by his family..
3. He loved people, and thus loved to make people happy.
Kory loved and loved to love well. One of the times when I was over at Kory & Jodi's, they shared their dream of opening a wine and spirits shop. He shared that his desire to make people happy drove him. I remember sharing with them that this is what counts: the notion of the Apostle Paul's words in Galatians chapter 5: "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." While it may not make sense to you today, I indeed believe that Kory's desire to not disappoint those he loved went with him everywhere, even to his dying day.
"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."
Kory indeed had faith. In the most troubling of times that I knew Kory, we talked about God, and how God could carry them through. And despite the tragedy of this week, I still have that faith, and I invite you to as well - have faith in a God whose love and grace is bigger than you can ever know, despite any circumstance.
Christian theologian Brian McLaren reflects on death in one of his books. I will not forget one line from this book, and in thinking about Kory, it rings loudly today...
"We are becoming on this side of the door of death the kind of people we will be on the other side."
What kind of person do you remember Kory Baker Ambler to be?
Let me finish how I started, with words from Coldplay, again speaking of our emotions: honestly, but of the future: hopefully. When I hear these words, I dare think of them as of our Savior, Jesus Christ:
When you try your best, but you don't succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse
And the tears come streaming down on your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
If you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you