I went home last week to my precious little hometown. I went to move my niece into her college dorm at Emmanuel, the alma mater of her great grandmother. W is cancer free now and celebrating her new lease on life. And I am joining her. This chapter is over, praise God. No more chemo. No more radiation. Only two tiny little surgeries to go. Personally, I am focusing on my next chapter, the next social enterprise, the next people group, the next nation. Time moves so quickly. And 24 hours in, Catherine has already become the most popular girl on campus and no longer needs me.
Last week, I also attended a funeral, the second one this month of a 57 year old. And this one was of the healthiest woman I knew. She was an avid runner who inspired me to train for long distance races, her dimpled smile was contagious and she should have gotten a free pass in life and outlive us all. Pam and Dan lost their infant son when I was 5. In my book, if you ever lose a baby no harm should ever befall you. Mom kept him in our home and therefore he was my baby too and his loss was devastating to me as a child. His death made me forever question God and His goodness and sent me on a lifelong journey to discover His kindness. Standing in the fellowship hall of the baptist church with Dan, a hero for a living (an EMT) and their close friend Leslie, a hero for a living (a nurse) and by one by default (lost a baby & a husband), I had no other choice but to accept the kindness of God in the midst of this because of their strength. I saw injustice. I saw a grandson who looks a lot like baby Adam who won’t know his grandmother. But Dan and Leslie saw a reunion in Heaven. This year Leslie tragically lost her 18 year old son just months before losing her husband after a long battle with ALS. And now she lost one of her best friends.
Tragedy and injustice has punched these two families with both fists. It isn’t right and it isn’t fair and it hurts and it makes no sense at all. And baby Adam should still be here and healthy runners shouldn’t die at 57. And doctors who dedicate their lives to save others shouldn’t die of ALS, leaving their nurse wives to take care of them. But I didn’t hear Leslie complain. She actually smiled at the thought of her son and her husband together. The peace of the Kingdom surrounded her and it was so tangible it moved over into my space and it touched me too. And nothing about Dan was angry or bitter or resentful. The pastor quoted Dan as saying that he “didn't run to God, he was already there with Him.”
It was true. He was there. Much like the Moses experience of seeing the face of God and coming off the mountain glowing, he and Leslie, they glowed a little. I found myself jealous almost. I don’t want to drink from that bitter cup or to ever have to taste that pain I know the two of them have experienced, but the peace on them was so beautiful if you saw it, you would want it too. It was tangible. That is the kindness of our Saviour. He has promised to never leave us and they are the living, breathing evidence of His goodness. He is peace. He is love. He is hope.
I Corinthians 15:54 says “Death is swallowed up in Victory.” Everything is upside down in the Kingdom and everything gets redeemed. Nothing is in vain. And even something as horrible as death is dubbed victory. And if Dan and Leslie can trust Him, so can I. And either way, I want what they have. But the price to pay is everything. I have to trust Him with everything, in everything.
It’s sacred stuff. I felt myself literally leaning in hoping I could could feel it on my cheek or touch it with my hands or breathe it in. I’ve encountered it before. In the receiving line at Strickland Funeral home when I hugged Kim and Bob Brown when Chandler died. When sitting hip to hip next to my Mozambican mama friends in church. A lot of them have that glow. It is a glow of the desperate and the hungry and the broken who have spent time with God. I can’t begin to really know it myself but I know what it looks like. And just a little encounter with it will change you.