I was sitting in a little area that was set apart for ministers and musicians in the chapel of the funeral home. I felt a little awkward sitting there, next to the exit and practically in the path of those who were filing past the casket, paying last respects and shaking hands with the ministers. I sat uncomfortably, unsure of my place in this scene as Chad greeted mourning friends and family while I waited with no real job. The men in suits were being ministers, and I waited in a chair.
I saw him walking toward me, and I knew his words would be friendly and kind. He is well-known and well-loved in our town, and everyone loves to see him coming. But, as he drew near, I could see that his eyes were shining with tears. Yes, it was clear when he stopped at my chair that the salty drops were just about to spill onto his laugh-lined cheeks.
He is dying. He has known as much for some time. The fact has been hard to believe and hard to understand. How could this vibrant, always-smiling man be dying? The man who always sees the positive, whose motto in life has been, simply, Onward ever. He has done great things. I mean, great things that have been documented and talked about. And then there are all the other great things, the things that are known only to those who have had the pleasure of being cared for and encouraged by him.
The tears were brimming there on his eyelashes. He reached down and put his hand firmly on top of mine. With trembling voice, he said, Your blogs have meant so much to me. He kept his grip on my hand for a moment longer, and then he gently patted the back of my hand and walked away.
I’m really not sure if he has read two things I’ve written or if he’s read a hundred. But, one thing I do know: I’ll never forget that moment, when a dying man paid tribute to the dead and then breathed life into an unsure girl with his teary eyes and his firm grip and his simple words. As his hand covered mine, I wondered if maybe there is more to ministering than being a man in a suit. Maybe I can be a minister, too, sitting right here at the kitchen table, breathing life into you.
He continues to spout his motto, precious dying man moving onward, onward toward the fulfillment of the hope that is inside him. One day he will suddenly find himself in the presence of his Savior. And, maybe after he hears Jesus say, Well done, good and faithful servant, he will link arms with the Lord and they will laughingly shout Onward ever! into the realms of eternity.
Al, if you’re reading this, thank you.