Two Weeks, Two Funerals – A Wholly Inadequate Tribute

A few weeks ago my landlord passed away.  He was 57, and he drowned while training for a triathlon.  He was a good man.  When we first came and saw the house, one of the reasons we all knew we wanted to live here was because we immediately liked him, and could sense he’d be a good landlord.  The first weekend we were here, we clogged the toilet pretty bad, and after doing everything we could on our own to try to fix it, reluctantly called him.  We didn’t want to come across as complaining tenants.  He came over right away and took care of the problem; his primary concern was that we weren’t disappointed in the place or him.  He had a big family; he was the oldest of nine.  It was interesting to briefly meet them all, and see a whole crowd of people who looked vaguely similar, everyone having one or two different physical features that resembled each other.  No one in my family looks anything like one another, so that’s unusual for me.  We also got to meet his lifelong best friend.  My life has taken a few substantial shifts in direction, and I regret to say that I don’t feel as though I have one of those.  It’s ok, I’m not bitter or anything, but it’s just a foreign concept to me.  The funeral was filled with people sharing stories of how selfless he was, and how much he sought to help and serve others.  They were right.  We barely knew him, and we could tell that right away.  He was a good man.

Then last week, my good friend and mentor’s wife passed away from cancer, very suddenly.  She was a good woman.  Their home was the site of countless meetings for a bunch of Boy Scouts who were trying their best to lead a troop of other young boys, who were simultaneously consumed with their own selfishness in high school and learning from older men what it means to live lives of service for others.  Having a hospitable home doesn’t happen by accident, and I learned at the funeral that she prayed continually for all of us.  Though she often played a supporting role, that support was much bigger and more important than I ever recognized at the time.  She was 55.  She was a good woman.

I believe God is writing a story.  There’s a bigger story that we’re all wrapped up in, and there are our individual stories that weave and intersect together.  These are parts of the bigger story I don’t like very much.  I think their stories ended too early, and I wrestle with the idea that this could be exactly how God planned it.  At the same time, my individual story is better because it intersected with these two people.  When I think of Wade, I’ll be reminded to be available to serve and help others, and to do it extravagantly and with a smile.  When I remember Gail, I’ll be more encouraging and supportive to others around me.

I think in some sense, we could say that the resurrection the Bible talks about is simultaneously a future event and a present reality.  Their stories don’t end with their burials.  They continue on in my own and others’ lives in myriad ways, constantly renewing and revitalizing us. Thank you Gail, for being a good woman.  Thanks Wade, for being a good man.

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~ by Joe Paparone on July 10, 2010.

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