TWO SATURDAYS, TWO CITIES, TWO MEMORIAL SERVICES
I am writing on a Monday morning after returning home from Portland, Oregon where Linus Jr and I spoke at the memorial service of a dear family member. We got news a week ago Monday of this 38-year old family member’s death, flew to Portland Thursday, spoke Saturday, and returned home just after midnight. Today I am a bit tired and sad.
The previous Saturday I was asked by long time friends to speak at their mother’s grave site in nearby Newhall, California. Dottie Hetrick was one month short of her 106th birthday, and had been married 65 years to her pastor-husband. She was mentally sharp to the end of her life, and died peacefully with her three children and several grandchildren by her side. She lived a faithful and fruitful life, and knew that her relationship with Jesus secured eternity for her, believing in Jesus’ promise:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:1-6).
Just before dying, Dottie said to her daughter Ginni, “Don’t let me linger.” Dottie’s confidence was in Jesus who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25). All of us at her gravesite were full of joy because we knew that death wasn’t the end of Dottie’s life.
THE FOLLOWING SATURDAY, AND SECOND MEMORIAL SERVICE
The memorial service this past Saturday was not joyful. Our dear family member was the mother of two young children. She died alone, her life cut short as she struggled with drug addiction. We grieved the loss of her life and the misspent gifts she was given. This is not how it was supposed to end!
Linus Jr and I talked about the “Smaller Story” and the “Larger Story” of our dear family member’s life. The Smaller Story of our lives is when we live as though this life is all there is…when we live for the moment…when we live for pleasure right now. The Smaller Story of our dear family member began by partying with friends, and giving in to their offers of drugs. Once hooked, she could not break her addiction. Those who loved her tried to pull her back, but her life became like a dropped cellphone call when driving through a tunnel. The farther she journeyed into the tunnel of the Smaller Story, the fainter the reception became. As she continued on, she lost her marriage, then custody of her children, then her life.
I am sad as I ponder what might have been on earth had our dear family member followed Christ as His disciple, and walked in the light and wisdom of His word…BUT fortunately there is a Larger Story. Years earlier, our dear family member joined Linus Jr on a short-term ministry trip to Portugal where she opened her life to Jesus as her Savior. During the trip she met Linus Jr.’s Christian friend Shaun. She then moved to San Diego and became part of the Christian fellowship that Linus Jr and Shaun were part of. She entered the Larger Story of connecting with God through Jesus, and became a part of bringing His kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.
Shaun and our dear family member were going to get engaged before Shaun was tragically killed during a ski trip while putting chains on the tires of his car. Our dear family member was sitting inside the car and glanced into the rear-view mirror to see an SUV sliding toward them. The SUV suddenly slammed into Shaun’s car, which then hit him and launched him into a pole, causing a fatal head injury. He died in our dear family member’s arms.
Shortly after the accident, our dear family member returned to Portland, eventually married, had children, but started hanging out and partying with friends. The Larger Story dimmed and she slid into the Smaller Story of her life, tragically losing her life, and leaving behind shocked and grieving family members and friends.
LIGHT AT THE END OF A LONG DARK TUNNEL
Our dear family member took a wrong turn and ended up in a long dark Smaller Story tunnel. Inside that tunnel it was dark, the air was unhealthy, the lighting was artificial, and there was no reception…BUT there is one piece of good news. Jesus said:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30).
Our dear family member entered into the Larger Story in Portugal, and in the year that followed in San Diego. When she connected with Jesus, He took hold of her hand. Although she became trapped in the Smaller Story, and loosened her grip on Jesus, He did not release His hold on her. At the end of that long dark tunnel of the Smaller Story, when she breathed her last, and her hand released its grip on this life, Jesus tightly held on to her and pulled her into His presence. God in His mercy allowed her life to come to a close on earth in order to bring her to heaven. The Smaller Story of her life came to a close…BUT the Larger Story picked up where it had left off years before.
My friend Mark Wickman sent me a link to a song that buoyed my spirits given the backdrop of the past few days. I cried as I saw young boys and girls along with adults joining in the worship. Would that that would have been our dear family member. Much was lost…BUT I am so grateful that God’s grace is greater than all our sins.
“But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15)
Because Jesus came to save sinners,
Linus and Sharon
P.S. For the link to the message that Linus Jr and I gave at our dear family member’s memorial, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.P.S. Please pray for me while I am in Brazil for the next round of On-Expedition training March 28-April 13.