My friend Ruth and her son Father Gregg.
Laying there almost motionless, her eyes were half way to heaven as the words she spoke were that of long laborious moans that came from a place deep within.
Wanting to appear that I had it all together, my mind was everything but, as it scrambled feverishly to find the right words. But to whom was I speaking?
Not one to sing in public to anyone, what happened next still surprises me to this day.
I began to sing.
Knowing that she was a Bill Gaither fan, I sang the only Bill Gaither song I knew.
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
My life is worth the living
Just because He lives
With her son sitting on her bed just to the left of me, I couldn’t believe what happened next. By the time I got to the “Because I know” part of the verse, she did something that in a million years, I would have not seen coming.
She rolled over to face towards me in her bed and in this deep confident moan, she began to harmonize with me along with her son, who too, was now singing with us.
Now, I have had a lot of special moments in my life and I must say.. that was a special moment that I will carry with me till the very end.
Driving there that day, I must have rehearsed in my head a million times what I hadn’t yet seen. But the truth was, I was nervous. This season of life had been a most difficult one which had left me asking a lot of questions of myself, my faith, and just life in general.
Simply put, I wasn’t so sure anymore about the pilot light deep within me and whether it was even still lit or not. Yet, there I was, bedside with an old friend, singing.
I didn’t go into this visit asking that question [was my pilot light still lit?], but somehow, I think the answer had long been waiting for my arrival.
Often times, I believe that when you have nothing to give and yet you are scrambling to have something to give, I think its is here when one is reminded that all along, no matter what you have done or where you have been or how far you might think you’ve gone, the pilot light deep within, is still on. It’s still lit.
Thomas Merton once wrote: “A hope that is seen,” says St. Paul, “is no hope.” No hope. Therefore despair. To see your hope is to abandon hope.”
Yet irregardless of my oft time abandonments of hope, He in turn, had not ever abandoned me.
It’s funny, it was I who scrambled to have something to give when all along, it was my friend who had the gift to give. The gift I so desperately needed.
I want to thank my friend for that gift. Because in this, it played a huge role for me in turning the corner and beginning to believe again. My pilot light, long after I thought for sure it had grown strangely dim, was still lit after all.
Yet, apparently I needed another reminder..
When we finished singing, my friend, now looking towards me and with a long laborious moan, asked me repeatedly to tell her what I know about heaven. As I looked directly at her, I thought for sure, it would not be long.
But what would I say? How would I respond? Again, I scrambled for what to say next when the words just spilled forth out of my mouth from a place I could not understand. One could not rehearse this but for a pilot light not strangely dim, but rather still, gloriously lit.
The streets are paved with gold and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. There will be a peace that surpasses all understanding and you will dwell there forever.
At that point, the doctor had arrived to check on her and I decided it was time for me to leave.
As I prepared to leave and visited with her son for a short while, all the while, all I could ask over and over in my head was, “What just happened there?”
I have no idea if she remembered a thing. All I know is that I know I sure will.
My pilot light is still burning. No longer need I live in such a way resigned that this is how life was going to be. With this new found knowledge, I left resolved that from here on out, what life could be was filled with countless opportunities. After all, all things are possible, even still. Right?
T’was grace that kept that fire burning. T’was the gift from a friend, that kept my heart from dimming.
Surprisingly, my friend would bounce back and live several more months before passing in early 2017. Today, we said goodbye. Thanks friend for reminding me that I still matter. Thank you friend for the best gift any one give you, the undying hope of a Father’s love.