Unitarian Universalist minister Forrest Church says that religion is our response to the reality that we live and then we die.
I have wondered recently whether perhaps I have been so drawn to religious exploration in part because of that reality. In one eighteen-month period of my childhood, my mother, brother, grandmother's mother, and grandfather's father all died. By the time I was in my early twenties, my first stepmother and an aunt had died, both of them before the age of fifty. I was very much acquainted with death long before I saw a baby born.
This morning as part of my school's Yom Hashoah observance, a student's father helped his mother describe her experiences in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. One of her jobs was to remove the bodies of those who died in their bunks or by intentionally electrocuting themselves on the barbed-wire fence. This is the second year in a row that I have listened to a student's grandparent describe her (last year, his) experience of watching Joseph Menegle standing at the train and pointing, "Right, Left, Right, Left." Life, Death, Life, Death.
And this afternoon we all stayed glued to our computers as the news from Virginia Tech trickled out, and thought about the terrible loss of life there, and about our own beloved students, whose families perished in Europe, and about our own beloved children off at school and college.
Sometimes, even just days after Easter, it seems that death takes over.
But this morning I listened and watched as a lady of great dignity showed us a photograph of her name and the date 1943 carved into a bunk at Auschwitz, and a photograph of the room in the bunkhouse where a Seder was clandestinely celebrated with stolen food and wine.