Sunday, February 12, 2017

Blessed By The Difference Love Makes

Being with family and friends at my brother's memorial service in Floyd County Thursday gave me a new appreciation for the value of time-honored funeral and burial rituals. The reading of familiar texts of faith, the affirmations celebrated in hymns of hope, and the expressions of love and care shown by so many helped make the grief bearable.

But the greatest healing came with the love.

As long lines of loving well wishers made their way past my brother's open casket at the two visitation nights, his bereaved wife and other members of our immediate family received assurance after loving reassurance that a caring community will remain long after Eli's grave is covered in a blanket of earth. Each embrace and touch of a loved one added a rich deposit to our bank of hope, assuring us we will never be completely alone in our grief.

Without love, we are lost. There is nothing left but despair. With love, we can feel free to cry and still know we will never be abandoned.

My own torrent of tears came in the love shared by a dear church friend of pastor Eli's, in the form of a tribute she had written several weeks before and which was read at the end of his memorial service. It was inspired, she said, by the following line in a recently published book Eli's daughter, my niece Judy, has written about his life story:

 "At recess time Eli's eyes sparkled. It did not matter so much at recess that he was small, for he was fast on his feet. Even the big boys said so."       -- By the Fields of Fish Creek

Run, Brother Eli!
     Arrow straight-shot toward the Son -- with crumbling vertebrae?

Run, Brother Eli!
     Faith-on-adrenaline surging forward -- cold cancer encroaching on warm vitality?

Run, Brother Eli!
     Heart-light, sins forgiven, quickened pace by Spirit wind -- lying flat, entangled in bed sheets and IV lines?

Run, Brother Eli!
     Finish-line focus, face-of-Jesus, shining clarity -- obscured consciousness--fighting through clouds--pain--medication!

Run, Brother Eli, run!
     Look at him fly down the track! -- see, he's pulling ahead of the rest! -- he's -- YES! HE'S WINNING!!

You've encouraged us onward and upward many times, Brother Eli; can you hear us now cheering for you?

- Sister Nan (Diane Freed)
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