"He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
Isaiah 40:29-31 KJV
These last few months have provided multiple opportunities to observe some amazing people, who have had to absorb unexpected and crushing blows.
My friend Dave who last week, suddenly lost his companion of over 53 years to an aneurysm. Yet, he actually played an arrangement on the piano at Linda's service, one which she had inspired him to record. How does one manage such emotional composure and still exemplify such impeccable talent as was the case with Dave?
Then there was Andy, whom I had been told by a trusted community leader just weeks before his passing, that we should get to know each other. We finally got our schedules aligned, and arranged a place to meet for lunch. I was a little early and soon noticed this young man who had arrived and looked as if he was scanning the restaurant for someone whom he had never met.
Though I'm thinking this fellow is way too young for one so well accomplished, I walked over and introduced myself. We had an amazing lunch. Why we had not met even earlier I'll never know! I loved this dude from the first few moments of our time together! We agreed to meet again and soon!
After multiple followup texts, I disppointedly assumed for some reason, he had gone dark on me. Then I saw his obituary pop-up online. At only 37, and in the best of shape, esteemed by all, even still receiving awards posthumously, he had died while out on a jog. He left behind a wife and young children.
The same with a young chef whom we had met through church, the best of attitudes, positive role model in his late 40's, only to have sensed some lower abdominal pain. He was gone in a little over month.
These were the best of Christ-followers, not silly men or women driven by lust or greed but righteous, salt of the earth folk. "Bad things happen to good people," just ask Jesus or his cousin, John the Baptist. However, it's what happens after their passing that is the proof in their pudding!
The life celebrations, what we used to call funeral services, the follow-up texts from spouses and conversations with friends of the aforementioned have all been life changing for me. Watching afterwards as spouses, caught off guard by their ill-timed loss, now learn to lean into the deep relationships formed by way of the life impact of those now passed. Almost as if having attained some super-power by way of having lived with and then losing their loved ones! I am speaking only from observation, as I am aware of the deep pain shared, but still these people are made stronger and in a unique way!
Those lost were all people who's deaths, because of the life they lived, brought a halt to our hurried lives. Linda's brought a ripple effect from her hometown all the way to Washington, DC., all stunned, most likely asking "Why God?"
Some folk seem irreplaceable, their impact so deep and wide that we question God when we receive word of their passing! These "Why God?" types silence the noise of life, when their last breath is suddenly drawn! Yet, the real testimony is demonstrated by the response of those left to grieve.
I think of I Thessalonians 4-13-17 (NIV),
"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him."
Yes, the youth shall faint and some ultimately fall, but those who remain, their spouses, those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up again, and this time with wings! Watch them, for eventually they will run again, less apt than others to be weary. They will recover their pace, yet their gait will change to one now more sure in their faith, more balanced in their hope. They seem less likely to faint than ever, they may weep at night, but joy comes with their mornings! Yes, by design it seems, they are strengthened by their deep loss, and we all then benefit.
I say that because I also know those who have now walked that walk for some years Sandy, Michelle, Ray and others.
Each time I witness such a stunning moment, I prayerfully ask, "why am I still here and they now gone?" I wonder deeply, even groan at first, but then my challenge becomes living a life that can be equally celebrated, long after my lips are silent! They would want that!
In fact, the friends that really know me know how much I enjoy life celebrations for those with whom I have done life for any period of time. Oh, not the initial shock of their passing but the celebration of such life treasured friends.
I must say that sometimes I actually embarrass myself by the joy that wells up in me during these raw moments of celebration, such as while listening to Dave play, Rachel’s Song! I had great difficulty sitting still beside my humble wife who struggles with any fanfare that I might later employ in celebrating her beautiful life. She dares me to keep it very simple. That will be difficult!
For me, she has asked if food trucks should be called in, knowing my desire to be "totally used up when I die" and then celebrated with good food provided!
Again, "we do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope."
Doing life includes that moment when our body falls off, our skin is shed and our spirits free. Live life with such hope, then when you pass on, others will be provided a brief moment of true celebration, a joyful respite of deep inspiration that adds value to their lives!
I am grateful to each of these now passed!
Oh death where is thy sting!!!