Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Two Dashes

I attended two memorials within a few days of each other--both the honored--young, in their sixties. One took place in a beautiful church on a hill in which the deceased served and worshipped. The other,  in a small room, the 2nd floor of the mortuary, a few folded chairs barely filled.

 For one, his ashes rested in a beautiful crafted wooden box, I am sure he made himself, since he did that. The attendees sang more than appropriate hymns together, "Be Thou My Vision," and "Amazing Grace." The other, a viewing, his shrouded body flanked by a collage of pictures and a spray of beautiful red roses.

One was a Sheriff's Deputy, the other a Chiropractor by profession, both involved and committed to serving their community and people without compromise.

One received a diagnosis of cancer in April and lost the battle in a few short months.
One suffered for several years with failing health.

Honored by many of his friends, pastors, colleagues and family, Ron, my cousin, received a passionate display of memorial speeches and a tribute to his heroism. We felt in awe of what he accomplished and gave. A "casket guard" represented by the Sheriff Dept., --in this case, an urn guard, each fully uniformed officer stood their allotted time next to the table where his ashes rested, in ceremonial respect and honor.

A service prepared by a minister he never knew, Walter, my friend from high school probably smiled from heaven as the minister shared from the Book of Genesis, his heart wanting to give us hope. Walter never wanted attention, always caring more about what you were up to. Leaving that room, we proceeded up a long hill, a procession following the hearse to where the burial ceremony continued, over-looking the valley he grew up and served his patients in. Arriving there, several more friends from high school enlarged the crowd. Below his dug grave, the burial section of children. Their headstones recently decorated for the fall season, aglow with marigolds pumpkins, mums...it gave that tangible melancholy--a feeling of hope lost. A choir of angelic voices, I'd like to think, welcomed my friend to his heavenly Home. In that we remember that God is the Giver of Eternal Hope.

Walter, bottom left with dear friends from High School, our annual reunion picnic. 

Yes, both memorials were different, yet in death, we are all at level ground. Eternity and our legacy lifts us up because of our love for God, demonstrated in service and kindness to others. Their memory etches a hope eulogy in our own interactions, for us to remember who they were to us forever in the tombstones of our hearts. It should inspire us to do something with that dash in our life's journey, the dash that holds a lifetime of who we are in Christ and to this broken world.

May 3, 1954 ~ ....   That dash represents my legacy. What will it be, what will yours be?

My cousin, Ron, my friend, Walter...their dashes, their selfless lives touched me and many others. I want to share two stories as I remember them, being told at each service.

Ron, trekked to Mt Everest in the Himalayan mountains of Tibet. An extraordinary athlete, this accomplishment is no ordinary endeavor. As you may have seen in documentaries or news stories, when climbing Mt. Everest, one is accompanied by local mountain guide called a Sherpa. Ron, being a friendly, very talkative man, struck up a conversation with one Sherpa on the journey. A topic came up about goals and dreams, an obvious, easy topic since Ron at that moment made a big check on that bucket list. The Sherpa ( with the help of translators), expressed to Ron that his goal in life was to be an "ancestor." In his culture, to achieve that, he needed to own property, a parcel of land. I don't know the details of how Ron made that happen, but he gifted his Sherpa after the climb with the amount he needed in his country, to make that purchase and achieve his dream, to become an "ancestor."

Ron and THE mountain! 

At the graveside service of my friend, Walter, as mentioned earlier, many more appeared on the hill,  fellow classmates of mine and Walter's from high school long ago. While the pastor said a few more words, there remained some missing statements about the man, Walter. These friends from high school,  were quick to give Walter the praise and honor he deserved, share their anecdotes and love. One story I wish to share here.

Just out of high school and entering junior college in the fall, Debbie and her friend needed jobs.  Seeing an opportunity to work in a factory, the excitement and impulsive urge created by the need for sustenance, made them eager to get hired. Hearing of this, Walter was not too certain this sounded like a good thing. Not in the best part of town, Walter insisted that he pick up both girls and drive them to the factory to do the paperwork. He then arranged to take them as well, their first day, which he did. Did I mention they were working graveyard shift?  Not only did he take them, he waited in the parking lot all night for them to finish their shift and make sure they got home safe. After a few days, the girls realized Walter's wisdom and quit. Who does that?--waits all night long, sacrificing their own time to make sure their friends remain safe? Walter did. As I got to know him more in our adult years, he shared one of his greatest joys, attending church at the Salvation Army, here in Ontario. A humble place and somewhere he knew he could serve God quietly and kindly, he did that and I saw that joy, that Holy Spirit within him when he talked about that experience. Walt also poured his life into his girlfriend's son, helping him to achieve his goals of entering the Armed Services. That became very evident when meeting Brandon at Walter's service. Walter loved deeply and unselfishly, a legacy filtered now into this young man for his own future.

No one knows the time, the place, the when or the where, the how...What I do know is the who.
Who will be impacted by my legacy? What kind of legacy am I leaving, presenting? Does it reflect the God I serve? Am I making a difference for the Kingdom? Am I bold enough to climb a "Mt. Everest" of negativity, culture changes and untruths? Can I persevere when the world and craziness permeates every facet of life? Can I continue to write and give testimony of the legacy of Grace? Only in His strength, I can.

Both my cousin and my friend pursued righteousness, right living. Both believed with all their hearts in the One True God and His purposes, to love God and love one another. Every day we make a choice--to live defeated or to live empowered. Trials come, but God promises that He walks with us through them and in that our faith strengthens, our legacy grows. In this Thanksgiving season, let's start with gratitude. Thank you God for the gift of Ron and Walter in my life. A grateful heart heals a broken heart etched with too many disappointments and sorrow. Heaven gains saints every moment. How can we invest in lives resulting in an eternal difference, a legacy rewarded in His perfect timing and providence?  Be Still and Know.

Well done good and faithful servants, well done.

Considerably yours, Coleene