Some things, literal things, figurative things, are simply too heavy to be merely carried. These are the things that we find we must instead bear.
A literal cross, a figurative cross, a burden, unpleasant tidings, up under the strain, with me; perhaps you have found yourself bearing these in the past, maybe you bear them even now.
Our friend Roger Kett, who Audrey and I both met at Augustana during our time at college in Camrose, bore a lot in his 44 years. A dedicated church minister in a tiny town in Eastern Alberta, about as remote as one can get without heading towards the DEW Line, he endured repeated challenges to his health, mostly from the cancer that he battled sporadically for a decade and a half and which he finally succumbed to last weekend. He persevered past the cruel and hurtful manner in which his first marriage ended, and bore himself up to a new love he wed in February of 2011.
His wife, Peggy, left a phone message to let us know of his passing. This was not unexpected; we had heard that Roger had taken ill, that he was in a hospice, and that his treatments left him unable to see visitors, which I know must have pained him. People think of me as sociable, as gregarious, but I wasn't fit to carry Roger's sandals in that arena, I couldn't even caddy for him on that course.
In college, Roger was outgoing and effervescent; fluid, dynamic. In maturity, he tempered these qualities with spiritual insight and humility and a brobdingnagian measure of compassion. When he spoke in the chapel at our ten-year reunion, I was gobsmacked that the man we'd called 'The Rocket', who had played so fast and loose with his blarney-laden rhetoric as a student, could now weave a pithy and compelling address without notes to a spellbound audience.
Roger's spirit I can only describe as unassailable. Even when elements of his life resembled nothing so much as the miserable tropes of a honky tonk dirge, he never became angry, never became despondent. He never railed at the universe or questioned the path he felt his Maker had placed him on. When he wondered aloud if his first marriage had ever contained genuine love, there was no animus, only wonderment; he may have been bewildered, but never beaten. He carried himself well, as they once said, but now it falls to others to carry him just a little farther.
Peggy's tearful message said that Roger had hoped I would be a pallbearer at his funeral, which is tomorrow in Calgary, which I will be honored to do. The possibility had never occurred to me, as we hadn't had that much contact since the wedding, but I certainly value the quality of Roger's friendship far more than the scant occasions we had to put it into practice.
It will be my sad privilege to bear Roger a little ways along on his final journey; it is only the figurative weight of his passing that is a burden. With time, surely even this will be buoyed up by the vibrant memory of a man who never allowed himself to be beaten, only subdued for a time.
Godspeed, my brother.