Easter is always a very special time of the year in our Christian journey, but this year Easter takes on new significance for I can now identify, from personal experience, with the pain of a parent whose child's life, in this realm, has ended. On Aug. 2, 1999, my son, Rashad Lateef Burnley, died as a result of a drowning accident in Toronto, Ontario. On April 14, our family will gather to celebrate what would have been his 21st birthday. While I don't know Mary's pain, I know the pain of losing a child, my only child.
My son was truly a disciple of Christ; in Him he lived, in Him he died, and in Him he will rise. But unlike Mary, I cannot see Rashad, touch and embrace his body, see his smile, or hear his laughter. While I cannot relate to Mary's joy of seeing her Son alive after he died, I can celebrate the joy that's made possible by a different type of resurrection; a resurrection not of the body, but of a real presence ignited and sustained by memories and evidence of a life well lived.
Rashad and I were very close, yet I continue to be amazed at what I've learned, and continue to learn, about him since his death. Countless testimonies of persons who were touched by God through our son have come forward; persons of all ages, races, and classes giving thanks to God for having known Rashad Lateef Burnley. Rashad loved God and had a demonstrated passion for helping people. I knew this about my son, but I wasn't fully aware of the depth and breadth this love had taken in his life. The testimonies which have come forth from students, professors, high school teachers, coaches, clergy and neighbors in tribute to Rash- ad have given me insights into his life which I didn't, perhaps couldn't, have before. Through these stories, my own memories, and the very real sense of hearing his voice saying, "Come on, Dad, step into the light and represent Christ; I'm with you," Rashad lives on.
Rashad lives among the ancestors, a member of the cloud of witnesses encouraging us to press "and run with perseverance the race that is set before us." He is our angel watching over us. As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus the Christ during this Easter season, we also celebrate life of Rashad Lateef Burnley. You done good, son! God help us, help me, to do likewise.
Focus on Faith is a reader-written column of stories and ideas to help readers grow in their faith. The Rev. Lawrence A. Q. Burnley is Executive for Racial and Ethnic Constituency Education and Development for the United Church Board for World Ministries. Focus on Faith is a reader-written column of stories and ideas to help readers grow in their faith.