Tuesday, January 6, 2009

End of Life and Living On

A man I have respected for many years passed away yesterday, the result of an unexpected accident on Christmas day. His life touched so many people both locally and around the world and his passing leaves a hole in the faith community and church of which he was a part. We are all grappling with that hole, with his absence, not quite believing it is real yet, not able to believe he is really gone.

Once again I am struck with the uncertainty of our lives...the fact that we can never really know what the next moment may hold. I am left with the familiar and well-worn question of how to live my life to the fullest. Not full in the accumulation of things, nor in recognition nor fame, nor in doing whatever I want to do. In my mind, living life to the fullest means living in communion with God...with knowing and serving Him as I am able, whatever that be. Everyone who thinks on this friend who died will think of him with fondness and with gratitude, whether they were actually personally close to him or not. He was the kind of person who enriched everyone around him by his caring and compassion and by his vital relationship with Jesus. He pointed people to God, just by being around them and everyone who knew him was richer for having come in contact with him. What more can anyone ask for as they leave their mark on this world?

I am reminded of the similarities between death of plants and animals in the natural world and such a person's passing beyond this life. In the woodlands or fields when something dies it leaves sustenance for the life around it in its remains. As its body is broken down, nutrients are made available to strengthen and nourish what takes its place in the ecosystem. My friend's life was like that as well, though in the spiritual realm. His legacy is a reminder of what a life consecrated to God and dedicated to loving people looks like. While we surely recognize those traits in people while they are living, oft times their character hits us with renewed force when they are no longer with us. Sometimes it is when we are keenly aware of their absence that the seeds they have scattered abroad into the lives around them take root and begin to grow into their likeness. May we all live lives, as our friend did, that cause others to see God and His invitation in us. May we grow in our communion with Jesus and encourage that same growth in those with whom we come in contact. And when our own passing comes, may we be remembered as ones whose lives and deaths pointed people to life in our Lord.

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