I’ve been stung by the death of one our closest friends. Carole died overnight in her sleep. I talked to her two weeks ago, telling her how much I loved her and her husband, Christy, and how thankful we were to spend part of our Christmas vacation with them. Carole said, “We love you too, come again anytime.” We said our good-byes. Little did I know it was the last time I would say good-bye to her.
She and Christy were the most hospitable and generous people I have ever met. If they saw a need, they met it. We received two laptops from them, as working poor graduate students, we couldn’t afford our own–we never asked for them. We didn’t have internet, we used it at their house or at the church. Did we need a car? “Use the Bravada” even when we never asked. “Are you hungry? There’s some food in the fridge or stay for dinner. We’ll order pizza or get subs from Wegman’s.” “Do you need a place to host youth group events, come to our house.” “Do you need to print things off or pictures? Use our paper free of charge.” They had a community pool–parents and youth could come anytime. I never knew who I’d find in the pool during the summers when I stopped by. In the winter, all had access to the hotub. We spent countless hours at the Mathewsons talking about God, theology, the mundane, church, people, policies, computers, food, dancing with the stars–innumerable conversations. We did youth work there. We knew the dogs and they knew us. It was a home away from home. Being there I realized–this is how the church is supposed to be–comfy–in peace and sharing whatever we have with those who are in need, or just those who happen to show up on our doorstep that day. Encouraging one another.
If we had to tally line-by-line all the material things they gave us and pay them back, it would be in the thousands. Although we were extremely close, they showed love and generosity to hundreds, maybe thousands of people. They were parents to the badly parented. Friends to all. All sorts of students, people and acquaintances were free to roam in and out of their house any time– day or night. You don’t believe me? Well jazz musicians from Eastman School of Music could be found in their living room playing the piano and all sorts of instruments at 2a.m. and beyond. They were listening ears full of great advice and wisdom.
Why did Carole have to die so young? She was in her mid-fifties. There’s plenty of more times that we and hundreds of others will need her and Christy. She was a smiling face, with a speaking voice of an angel–that greeted us when we stepped into the living room. She had her first two grandsons born this year and another on the way in a couple of weeks. Her grandkids won’t know the love we experienced. It doesn’t seem fair. I know her ways will live on through her children and Christy, but still.
God says to all of us, “Do not mourn like those who have no hope.” We’re not prevented from mourning, only from hopeless mourning. If there is no after-life, if this is all there is–how depressing. We really will never see those who died in Christ again.
But, Jesus says that he came to give us life…not only life in this life, but life after death (John 11:25). There is some comfort in that for those of us who are mourning. But none of us is ever ready for when death knocks on our or another’s door.
I am almost 30. Not guaranteed another day of life. Perhaps half my life is gone already. There is so much to do! So much to be! So much love to give and receive! So much to experience. I know that I will never do and be and love and experience as much as I want to.
But it reminds me that life is precious. We can’t waste it being depressed (I am not talking to those with chemical imbalances) or fighting. It is to short for that.
O Lord Jesus! Help us to live, really live, really love, to really be, in this short life–it is a passing breeze that does not return.