I attended a funeral for a 45-year-old man today, the son of friends of mine. He died suddenly and unexpectedly. The church was packed. His mother gave a touching eulogy and moved the crowd with her courage and love. The man in front of me, who I did not know, had tears flowing from his eyes, falling into his lap. He did not seem to be embarrassed by his emotions and all I could think of was my own father.
I knew some of this young man’s story but not all of it. I had not heard the near-death encounter that he had experienced even though I was well aware of the tragic car accident that killed two other people while the young man and his aunt survived. God sent him back for a purpose, I suppose. He was given almost another 30 years. Maybe that was one of the reasons as revealed in the story his mother told of how he jumped in the river one time to save a stranger from drowning. We never really know how our lives effect others or how we reflect Christ in our world.
Four weeks ago today I was told that my cancer had returned and that nothing could be done. Since that time, many people have emailed, telephoned, or written me to tell me how my life has impacted theirs. Honestly, it has been overwhelming. I knew that my actions have the opportunity to heal or hurt. I have not always been aware of how the little things are huge things for others. We all do those things–smile at someone whose life is crashing without any external warning signs, listen to a conversation that means much more to the person who needed an ear than we realize, or compliment someone without the knowledge that their self-esteem has hit rock bottom. Grace is at work in those moments.
Somewhat humbly I admit that I have always known that I am a good person, but I am discovering what that really means now. I see the blessings and I see that how I have chosen to live has been consistent and honest. Prior to leaving for the funeral, I chatted with an artist friend of mine who sees the world with eyes that catch what others may miss. Our topic was in essence about embracing death. I was saying how I still do not know why I am living this experience out loud but I keep feeling compelled to. I recognize that people are engaged with it, for whatever reason. Later my friend said I had blessed her day with our conversation. Equally, I thought she had blessed me tremendously with her wise observations.
While at the funeral, I talked with one of the nuns I know. At the end of it she commented that I was a witness to suffering. When I said that I believed I was not yet suffering, she smiled and said that I was a witness to mercy then. We reflect what we know. We recognize the Christ qualities and the Presence of the Holy. She had embodied compassion and here she was affirming me.
The young man with the bright smile and quick wit left this world much too early, as I will. Who knows why this man did not die in that car accident? Who can say why he was called home now, having cheated death once? Those are not the important questions. He was a reflection of Christ. We all can be. Length of days maybe does not matter if we are not about our Father’s business. How are we living this moment to the glory of God? That is the real essence.
How have you reflected Christ recently?
When did you last have Christ reflected to you?
May my face shine with your glory, Lord. Let my eyes sparkle with your compassion. Allow my smile to bring Light to someone’s darkness, joy to someone’s pain, mercy to hard-heartedness, and peace to the troubled mind. I pray that I may reflect you to all I meet and that I may recognize your reflection in those who I encounter. Amen.