Dell St. Clair Miller, II
Jesus speaks to his disciples in the 14th chapter of St. John: “Wither I go, ye know, and the way ye know.” This is the night of the Last Supper, with the whole story of Good Friday and the Cross about to play out for Jesus and for his friends. You know where I’m going, and you know how to get there too.
It is very much for me an honor and a privilege to share this evening in this service for Dell Miller. To reflect on his life. To share in the sorrow of loss with Debbie, with Audri and young Dell, with all of you, family and friends. As we offer together the prayers of the church, not just as we say the words but as we gather the faith and life and witness of the whole Christian family and offer the deepest knowledge and desire of our hearts to almighty God. As we hear the words of scripture, the psalms, the lessons, the Good News of Jesus Christ.
“Wither I go, ye know, and the way ye know.” You know where I’m going, and you know how to get there too.
Dell St. Clair Miller, II, son of the late Donald William and Anna Mae Heiber Miller. Brother of Cynthia, Cindy, and of the late Donald William Jr. Named after his grandfather Dell St. Clair Miller. Born on June 15, 1972. A rich Catholic faith and heritage. He was baptized into Christian life at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Burgettstown, where he received his First Communion and the sacrament of Confirmation. He and Debbie were married on June 16, in the year 2000. Making a home and family together—with these wonderful kids Audri and Dell. A strong circle of family and friends. A hard worker. A man of strong feelings and strong opinions. But also with a tender heart, especially for his family. And of course these many years struggling with diabetes, and then with the complications recently. Passing from this life to the Greater Life of God this past Thursday night, June 20, so very young. Just days after his 41st birthday and 13th wedding anniversary. And so much for everyone who loved him a sense of sudden loss. So unexpected. Hard to believe and hard to digest the reality of it.
Leaving us all I think with a lot of questions.
“Whither I go, ye know, and the way ye know.” You know where I’m going, and you know how to get there. Jesus is talking to his disciples about something more than what we might call our religious opinions and theories, our interpretations, our theological positions or understandings of various issues and concerns of the day. What Jesus is talking about is a deeper kind of knowing than that. The kind of knowing that we talk about when we say that a child knows his mother. It’s about relationship, connection. About the word we use in the Church with real meaning and sincerity: about faith. About being in relationship with God deeply and securely. “You know where I am going, and how to get there, because you and I are going to the same place, returning to the same home, to that mansion that the Father has prepared for us.” To hear again, “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also.”
And St. Thomas—who later gets called Doubting Thomas. But he’s the one who has questions. Lord, no, we don't know where, we don't know how. And I think we all are left with so many questions too, here this evening. How this could happen, why, how to make any sense of it at all. And Dell, Audri, Deb: how all those questions come together in our hearts with love for you. Wanting to know what to say, how to help, how to be there for you. Not to make sense of things, because I don’t think it really does make sense.
It was such a sad time on Thursday evening, as everybody came together over at the hospital. Family and friends, his sister, his goddaughter driving all the way up from Morgantown, just to be there.
The Funeral Sentences from the ancient prayers of the Church, “In the midst of life we are in death.” I remember as it got later in those hours watching Maryellen sitting on the floor holding Ricky in her lap as he tried to sleep. Grandma and grandson. Thinking how very fragile we are in this short life. How precious every day is. There is a line in the Psalms, “Lord, let me know my end, and the number of my days.” But of course we never can know. Every day is a gift, but a gift that comes with no guarantee. Even when we say, “see you tomorrow,” we don’t really know.
And Jesus says to Thomas, I'm not just going to tell you where and how. I'm going to show you. I'll be the way, for you. I am the way, the truth, the life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
We had the traditional prayers Thursday night, by Dell's bedside in the ICU. The prayers appointed when a person is near death, unction, the anointing with holy oil, which is a reminder of baptism. At the beginning, the prayer and assurance of pardon. Forgiveness. In his earthly body Dell may not have been able to hear these words, but in the fullness of the life of the world to come, these words were spoken and heard in the reality of his mind and heart and soul. “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.”
Especially when someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly, it catches us off balance. Immediately we think of things we wished we had said or done, while we still could. Regrets. Missed opportunities. Things that needed to be resolved perhaps. Things done and left undone. But I would just say this morning that the word forgiveness means letting go, giving release. Not holding on.
In the sure and certain hope of life in Christ Jesus, what we all have to be about this evening, with all the sadness that there is—what we all have to be about is to learn to live every day of this short and precious life in the love of God and of one another.
Jesus said, in my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and bring you to myself, that where I am, you may be also. You know where I’m going, and you know how to get there too. By staying with me, staying close. I'll get you there. “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”