Doug Riley, 1971-2006

I confess I am loath to write anything in these times, not least of all because there’s only so much profundity one can wring from tragedy after a certain point and I’m reluctant to establish a precedent I can’t keep up with. But Doug Riley was a prominent enough figure in gospel music to warrant the breaking of one’s own rules. And he was young … by which I actually mean, “so close to my own age.” Though honestly, I don’t think we ever get too old to find these kinds of things nearly perverse in their inexplicability. I know all the ideas and the words that are supposed to apply here … about God’s mysterious ways and death being a victory for the person of faith and the angels rejoicing at a saint gone home etc. And I mean no disrespect for those who find immediate relief from grave loss in the consolations of the afterlife. But the fact is I love life, and I think most people do. No amount of singing about this world not being our home keeps us from clinging to this brief passage with a natural tenacity and justified covetousness that belittles the oversimplifications of describing all “this” as a vale of tears or an existential holding pen for the elect. God may work in mysterious ways but mystery begets wonder, and wonder begets the desire for more. And it’s that feeling of wondrous MORE in this life that explains, I think (at least in part), why we wonder “why?” To be given the capacity for faith, to be shown glimpses of grace and provided evidences of a world suffused with divine significance - this may all be portent, so many holy commercials before the big main feature to come, but it sure feels like more than that, just as death can often feel cosmically unfair, heavenly unjust, a big homecoming, as so often is said, in the realms of glory - but no one ever says the next part, that these homecomings come at our awful expense. Or more accurately at the expense of nice guys with families and a pleasant smile and way with a trapset. And he was just 35.

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