We were only in the beginning of the concert when Bruce Springsteen announced it was time for “roll call,” the time when he goes around the stage introducing members of the E Street band. As a long-time fan, I listened and wondered what he would do when he reached down stage right. It was the first time I’d been at a concert since Clarence Clemons, the fantastic saxophonist, died. He paused once all were introduced, then asked: “Is there someone missing?” The crowd roared. As he repeated the question, a spotlight fell on the microphone standing off to the side and the roar became overwhelming. After giving the crowd its time, he said: “If you’re here, and we’re here . . . HE’S hear!” The roar returned louder than ever.
It was a fitting tribute to such an essential member of the band, but was also a vivid reminder of how a presence can remain long after a person leaves. It made me think of the people I've lost along the way, the empty microphones of my life. I am sad to say, over time I’ve stopped asking if anyone's missing, ceased to turn the spot light on, no longer remember those who've played essential roles in my life.
I regret that. A friend in highschool . . . father . . . mentors of all kinds. My list is long; Perhaps your's is too. Time makes the losses more distant and less painful, but remembering is more important than the avoidance of pain. Better to take the time and name the absence. Or as Springsteen taught, better to acknowledge the presence.
I do not know how this whole life and death thing works. I have wondered for years about the connection between those of us still living and those who have died and hope that those I've loved and lost are somehow near. Bruce’s tribute last night rekindled those hopes.
The early disciples struggled with the same issue and were told that when two or more are gathered together in Christ's name he would be in the midst of them. I think that’s the same truth Bruce spoke and my heart felt: If you’re here, and I’m here . . then they’re here.
May it be so.