Love’s Price

Grief is the price we pay for love.”

That’s what Queen Elizabeth said the day after 9/11, quoting the British Psychiatrist Colin Murray Parkes. These words come back to me today as I greet the news of the death of my mentor, colleague, foe (at times) and almost life-long friend and fellow pilgrim Rev. Richard Lucco.

I first met him at the free-throw line at after-school basketball at North Park Covenant Church when he was a seminary student and I was seven years of age. As I tried to launch the ball with might I didn’t have in my little body, he pushed me aside and said, “watch and learn!” with his characteristic whole body laugh. That day began my relationship with my first coach. In many ways, my journey followed his. Later he was my camp counselor, and a fellow covenant pastor who was present at my ordination interview in 1995. After the interview, while I was nervously waiting out in the lobby as the board deliberated, Dick emerged from the room to call me back in with a somber face, and said, “We’ve denied you because you’re a cubs fan!” And the whole body laugh came again, he a Cardinals die-hard.

He went on to be a conference superintendent and then ECC Vice President, and here for a season our collegial relationship was strained by the hard discernments of our pastoral journeys. Never, though, was there a question about our friendship filled with deep respect and love. In the midst of it all he came and found me one day and said, “I love you very much.” Just at the right moment, a kind of hollow, grieving moment (I’ll spare you the details), he came and loved me. There’s that connection again.

Today it’s holy grief that shows up and knocks at the door. After five years of a mighty struggle with an aggressive and unrelenting cancer, Dick Lucco has died. Our chances at life together, at least according to our mortal frames, are gone. Our continued work at healing is over.

Losing those you love really does lead us into grief. I’m learning as I grow older how true that is.

Yes, yes, our faith gives us hope. We greet the glad news that death has been swallowed up by life. We ask the defiant questions of the early church: “Where, O Death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” But we shake our fist at death as at least for now, it gets the best of us. I don’t know about you, but I’m longing for the promises of God to come into clear view when these dreaded sufferings and sorrows are no more. On that day we will be able to say together, to sing together, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

For now, these things still sting.

Love (and grief) from here,

Peter Hawkinson

“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Richard Lucco. Acknowledge we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive Richard into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

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