My regular readers know that when something grips my heart it eventually makes it out of my hands and onto the paper. The deaths of Bruce and Nancy Schaefer are no exception. The following is my response to the tragedy and hopefully some encouragement for those of us who will pray and reach out to the family in their loss.
Do you have people in your life that are season-sharers? Let me explain what I mean. We all know that life is full of seasons. Not just the kind in nature, but the kind that ebb and flow from year to year. Childhood, high school years, college…and so it goes on and on, never stopping, always moving. Season-sharers are people that were in your life for a season, or maybe two. Then, because life moved on, they were gone. Sometimes you never hear of, or see them again. Other times your paths may cross a little further down the road. The thing about season-sharers is that for a time you were connected. Therefore, when you hear of their tragedies and heartaches, your heart breaks too. It does not matter that it may have been years since you have seen them. Since you shared a season together, a portion of your hearts are intertwined. When you go to a wedding, the season-sharers are there. Those people from across a lifetime all come together in one place to celebrate. It is the same at funerals.
The Schaefers are some of my season-sharers. We were all at the same church together when I was a teenager, so I grew up with their kids. We went on retreats, youth camps, and choir tours together. From a teen perspective, most of my memories are of the kids. Like the time we were at their house on the gorge and my tin can car was blocking the driveway…no problem that I was on a hike and had my keys with me…the boys just picked it up and moved it across the street. Or when we got snowed in at a retreat and had a massive snow ball fight, with shovels. There were fun times at the beach as well as in the mountains, long bus rides, and card games. Whether the youth group was going to the Varsity or to play Putt Putt did not matter, we were friends who all enjoyed being together. It was a shared season.
When I think of Nancy and Bruce my memories are not quite as clear. They were adults. We were teenagers. Enough said. But while I might not have detailed recollections, there are some things about them that even the kids in the youth group could clearly see. The first is that they cared about us. They opened their home, and their hearts to us. The next, is that they loved their kids fiercely. No question. Their family was tight and they looked after each other. Papa Bear, as Bruce was fondly called, was a gentle giant with a twinkle of mischief in his eyes. Nancy was a mother who was devoted to protecting her children and raising them with graciousness. Another, and maybe most important memory, was that they were people of faith. I did not know what their jobs were, or that she was involved in politics. I just knew they were people who loved God and cared for others. That was enough.
Now in light of their tragic end, my mind wanders unbidden to the questions that will most likely never be answered. The events were so out of character it makes me wonder how the unthinkable became a reality. Ultimately, my mind must not take the road that leads to more questions. I choose to focus on lives well lived, despite the fact they were cut short. I look at the children and grandchildren who are the legacy left behind to carry on. I pray to God who might not be easily understood in this painful time, but is faithful just the same.
The home-going of the Schaefers does not feel like a celebration right now. It hurts. It is surreal. There is shock, and sorrow with a bit of numbness thrown in. The family will have a season of grieving that will have a ripple effect in the community, but the season-sharers know what to do. They embrace. They love. They show compassion. They share this season of suffering…from their hearts.