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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Dannhauser

Indelible alleluias

I recently cried for the first time in this ministry. I’ve gotten misty-eyed before, but this was the first time a tear actually escaped my eye and ran down my cheek. Here’s why.


A man told me a story about his cousin who lived on Long Island and had an adult daughter living in Manhattan. She and her husband decided to move to Florida, and her dad said he would help – specifically, by packing some of their stuff in his car and driving it down.


So, he comes into the city, they load up his car and his daughter and son-in-law’s car, and they caravan down to Florida. It takes two full days of driving, and the daughter rides most of the way with her dad, which is really sweet.


Then he gets a flat tire thirty minutes before their destination. They all stop to deal with the flat, and once the spare tire is on the car, he tells his daughter, “Why don’t you ride with your husband the rest of the way? You can pull up to your new home together.”


Makes sense. They hit the road. And five minutes later he’s in a terrible car accident and dies.


So, here is his cousin, recounting the tragedy. He is absolutely grief stricken. The two of them were very close. But his way of telling the story emphasized moments of grace:


The two days his cousin got to spend in the car with his daughter, for example. His urging her to ride in the other car right before the accident. The fact that while the flat tire was being changed, he prayed the rosary to pass the time. And before they set out on the road trip from New York City, he went to his favorite bagel place.


These details provided such comfort to this man bearing his soul on the sidewalk because he chalks them all up to God. So do I, including the bagel. God is in the small stuff.


And no, God did not prevent the deadly and devastating car accident. Just like God does not prevent school shootings and natural disasters. But we affirm that God is active in our world and in our lives anyway. We affirm that moments of grace abound, even and especially in hardship and in heartache. As the Episcopal Prayer Book states in the Burial Rite: Even at the grave we make our song. “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”


The man who stopped for prayer, and told me this spectacular story, followed it up with this question that was more of a comment: “We’re not meant to understand it, are we?”


It’s so true. In the West, we have the tendency analyze everything. We’re hell bent on on understanding: “I will understand, I will master, and then I will teach it to you.”


But faith calls us to live in the mystery. This doesn’t mean we have to believe that everything happens for a reason, or even trust that it all makes sense to God. Frankly, I find great comfort in picturing God throwing up God’s hands and saying, “I can’t believe it either. But I’m sorry, and I’m here. And we’ll figure out a way forward together.”


Most of all, faith puts the song of alleluia in our heart – a song of hope, and gratitude, and trust that God’s love holds us fast. There will be times when we can’t quite bring ourselves to sing it. But those alleluias are indelible, and they surely surface again – often with a tear.



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Rebecca Briggs
Rebecca Briggs
May 29, 2023

This is a precious post, Adrian, as they all are. Thank you for your tender and honest reflections. I am always blessed by your thoughtfulness and compassion. The story you shared, reminds me of the words to an old hymn.

Be still my soul, your God does undertake

To guide the future, as He has the past.

Your hope, your confidence, let nothing shake.

All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still my soul, the wind and waves still know.

His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

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