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March 5, 2007

Technically this post talks about yesterday, but I haven’t gone to bed yet so it’s still “today”. Technically.

Today my uncle, Larry, was remembered by a few friends at the local tavern he went to occasionally. They took up a collection for the Boys and Girls club, had a few beers in his honor. All of this against his wishes. His obituary read “No memorial service. Funeral arrangements held by…” That’s it. The sum total of a mans life. His entire existence encapsulated and hidden in the dash between dates. Spent. Gone. Snuffed out. Leaving us staring at the empty space he left and trying to remember what it was all about.

Today 150 people gathered in a church to hear a man’s final thoughts about the love he had for his wife, his daughter and his Lord. There was a slide show, an honor guard, Taps, hymns and praise, a short message from I Corinthians 13 and an altar call. Tears fell at the sweet sentiments shared and the clear tones of the flute as his daughter played for him one last time. His obituary was short, sweet and showed a man with family, conviction, purpose and love.

Today was both exquisite and agonizing for me.

Exquisite because I was given the honor of being allowed to serve the family through the music he selected months ago. Agonizing because my heart grieves for my family as they mourn the loss of a father, a brother, a son, an uncle. The hope we are denied. The grief o we try to come to terms with. The stark reality that we may never see him again.

Grief is a peculiar animal. It can come and go like a wave. Today as I sat behind the piano and tried not to think too hard about the words of the songs, I heard weeping behind me, I turned my head a little and I saw people standing, arms outstretched, tears streaming as they sang “Blessed submission, all is at rest. I in my Savior am happy and blest.”

Wayne would have been pleased, I think. I believe the Lord was honored today and the legacy of friends and family is an amazing tribute to one man’s life.

My mom wrote me today and said she’s gone out to Larry’s house a few times. She’s cleaning and making trips to Goodwill to donate things. Long days. No help. Just a mop and garbage bags. In two weeks it will be as though Larry hadn’t ever lived there in his little house. In a few years it’ll be “Larry who?” One of his sons has a severe liver disease (alcohol induced and perpetuated) and will most likely not make the next couple of years. The other son goes by his mom’s name. Larry’s name will fade to a whisper and then be gone altogether. His 70 years will have been as the mist spoken of by King Solomon millenia ago. A vapor. Gone.

What is life all about? What are we doing with this treasure of breath that we’ve been given? Am I spending it all on me or am I investing it in the lives of those around me. Will I be known by what I gave or by what I hoarded? How I served or how I took?

We all leave a mark. Some leave theirs by accident, some by intention. Some leave scars, others leave smiles. Some leave with all their personal accounts paid in full and enrich those around them. Some take unforgiveness and bitterness to the grave and deny those closest to them the resolution and peace which comes with a timely good-bye.

There is only one thing certain. Our lives will be required of us and there will be a day when we must account for what we have done. The question remains, with whom will we stand on that day? By whom will we be covered?