Dear Friends,

A week ago today we were on the road to Portland.  We returned yesterday evening.  It was quite a week.  Heather’s surgery went even better than expected and we are greatly relieved and thankful.  Collin is now back home after 26 days away and an internship with Kelsey’s boyfriend, Al, at his auto repair shop.  We got to watch the Fourth of July fireworks from a boat in the Willamette River with Kelsey and Al.  We attended the memorial service, for my friend, Ray Balcomb.  We spent time with Helen’s sister and with my sister. (No, we don’t have the same sister!)  I got to go on a long early morning run along the Portland waterfront with my cousin on the most beautiful Saturday morning you could imagine.  I got to go rock climbing with Collin.  And the wedding I was honored to officiate Saturday evening could not have been nicer.  It really was a wonderful week.
But we also received news while we were in Portland that a girl from the youth group in my Portland church recently took her own life.  This girl, Alexis, and the bride at Saturday’s wedding, Jessica, were the same age.  I taught both of them in confirmation and received them into membership on the same Sunday.  Both were good friends of each other and of our Kelsey.  Both were beautiful, talented, caring, intelligent young women who brought their parents and all who knew them great joy.  How is it one’s life is now over 26 years after it began and the other is on her honeymoon?  One set of parents exulting that their precious daughter has found her soul mate and another set grieving a grief that few of us can comprehend?  These two events, a wedding and a suicide, mark the highest of the high and the lowest of the low in our human experience.  What can be more wonderful?  And what can be more awful?  I’m still reeling and struggling to come to terms with this news about Alexis. 
The scripture that keeps coming to mind is the one we read at Verla Tollefson’s service:  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Tribulation?  Distress?  Persecution?  Famine?  Nakedness?  Peril?  Sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 8:35-39).
In that love, Pastor John Watts