I’m going to ask you to do something that may seem a bit odd, a little unusual. I hope you’ll bear with me for a moment because I think as we continue you’ll understand why I am asking you to do this. I want you to take a moment and just sit in the silence. Be present and open to the silence, and just listen. But before you do that, I want to tell you something.
Many believe that silence is the opposite of sound and that there is nothing to hear. As a musician, a conductor, and a music teacher, Gene knew that’s just not true. Every good musician knows that silence is the necessary space between the notes. That space, what most of us might call or experience as emptiness, absence, or a void, is the birthplace of the music. That space of silence is as much a part of the music as is each note. That space sets a rhythm, holds energy, and gives music its life, power, and beauty. Silence is never just emptiness, an absence, or a void; not in music, not in life, not in death, and not on this day.
So take a moment and listen to the silence.
What did you hear?
My guess is that you heard the music of Gene’s life; you heard his song of love, his song of friendship, his song of teaching, his song of presence in your life. And I wonder what song he gave you. How did he touch your life and invite you to join your voice to his in the great song of life? How did he conduct you into the original music of your own life? Hang on to those songs, Gene’s and yours. Let them fill you and carry you. They are holy hymns.
I’m also guessing that you heard your song of grief and sorrow, your song of loss, and your song of love for or friendship with Gene. It probably had a verse or two about loneliness, sadness, and wondering how you can know the way. That’s the space between the notes. That’s the opening to a new song for Gene, for you, and for all those you love but no longer see.
I want you to know this. The music of Gene’s life did not end at his death. Today we stand in that space between the notes, a space that makes room for presence in a new way, a space from which God is making all things new. The music of Gene’s life now plays in a different key.
Isn’t that what the liturgy is declaring when it says, “Life has changed, not ended?” Isn’t that what Jesus is telling Thomas in today’s gospel (John 14:1-6) when he says, “That where I am, there you may be also?” Death is not the coda, the conclusion, to the song of life.
Though we might be able to name the day and maybe even the hour of Gene’s death, he never knew that moment. He simply moved from this life to a new life. The music hasn’t ended, the key has changed. And that means we must learn to listen in a new way. We must listen with the ears of our hearts.
In a few moments we will offer the Eucharistic Prayer. Gene and all those we love but no longer see are never more close, more present, than in that moment. We will declare and pray the reality of their life and presence among us as we say, “Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven.” Our living voices join their living voices to become one voice.
So when we get to that part slow down, pay attention, listen with the ears of your heart. Listen for the voice of Gene. Listen for the voices of all those you love but no longer see. Feel his and their presence. The music is always playing.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” for we are singing the never-ending song of life. That’s why we’ve gathered here today. And that’s why on this day, even at the grave, we make our song, “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”