Post Author: Mariclair Partee
It has been just over two weeks since we all heard the terrible news of explosions in Boston. In a timeline that seems too familiar these days, a few panicked reports of an explosion, then two, near the finish line of the Boston Marathon bloomed across the internet and television news channels into cellphone video of the destruction, clouds of debris billowing and screams of terror, then an increasing number of images of the injured being rushed to medical tents, first responders running bravely toward the chaos still unfolding around the blast sites, numbers of suspected dead. As the hours passed the news coverage was all-pervasive, every channel showing the same clips, the same still photos, as on camera reporters did the journalistic equivalent of treading water with the limited facts available, grabbing at anything that seemed like it might give some insight into what was happening, something that might even start to break open the question of why.
Numbers of the dead and injured were released. Within a day photos of suspects were culled from security camera footage in the area, and we all know what happened after that. The manhunt, the shutting down of one of the major metropolises of this country, the car chase, the deaths, the search that ended with a whimper, a lone surviving suspect cowering in a boat stored for the winter, critically injured. As a nation we’ve lived through too many tragedies, but this one was notable not only for the brutality of the crimes- also for the speed with which suspects were identified, apprehended. Eventually the reporters exhausted the short biographies of the two suspects, and the glare of the media moved slowly on. Healing has begun. The dead have been buried. All except for one.
In a funeral home in Worcester, MA, is the body of the suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsraenav, washed an prepared in accordance with his faith, but with no destination for burial. No cemeteries will allow him a plot. The funeral director, Peter Stefan, took the body after none of his fellow funeral directors would. With a reputation for tending to the bodies of those who have no one and nothing, he has long been known in his community as someone of rare character. Stefan developed this reputation by burying the bodies of people who had died of AIDS in the early 1980s when others were afraid of infection, prostitutes, recent immigrants, criminals, those abandoned by their families.
Profiled for his local paper over a decade ago, Stefan said “God must have loved the poor, ‘cause he made so many of them. That’s one of my favorite sayings…[t]hat’s why I’m involved, to take care of poor people.” For his belief that every body deserves a burial, and for upholding what he understands to be the ethical obligations of his profession, he has had protestors outside of his funeral parlor since taking Tsaernav’s body almost a week ago. Each day he continues to try to find a final resting place, unsuccesfully. As he puts himself at risk to do the thing he thinks is right, Stefan is emerging as one of the many heroes of this widescale tragedy. He hasn’t identified himself as belonging to a particular religion or denomination, but in the midst of darkness, he is practicing resurrection. In his simple assertion that every human being deserves respect, even in death, he is a light of Christ. May God bless him, and may he be the spark that ignites us into a kinder world, or at least one where more of us have the courage to do the right thing, the Christlike thing, in the face of hatred and fear.