Last week the husband of a sweet teacher at my school was killed in a tragic accident. All of us who know and love Shana and her daughter Lexie are hurting for them. I am not sure we have a word for what they are experiencing right now in our English language, but devastated comes close. Their world has come crashing down.
I did not know Jim, but after attending his memorial service and hearing about his life and character, I wish I had. He was described as someone who had a true heart for God and not only read his Bible and studied it, but pondered the texts, calling his minister friend to ask for clarification on certain passages, writing out whole books in long hand because it helped him to understand them. He had devoted the last few years to helping others, not in the vague way we often say we want to help, but in concrete ways, such as going up to the ER on nights he couldn’t sleep and sitting with people in need. The day before he died, he had called the church to see if there were funds available to help someone who needed rent money. His own father got up and spoke about how Jim’s example had helped him grow in his faith.
And yet this true man of God was struck down in his prime. Although the service was centered around celebrating his life, one of the ministers that spoke admitted that he had struggled with what to say to bring hope and comfort to the family. I appreciated his honesty, that he didn’t just want to get up there and say something trite. He talked about Job and his example, and how we just don’t understand why things happen. Then he quoted the famous passage of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:
As I listened to these ancient words, I thought of how I wished I could truly live by this and just appreciate the moment. When I have run long, painful races, I have learned to do this – not thinking about the miles I just covered or how many I have to complete, but concentrating on my surroundings, my breathing, what God may be trying to say to me. There are those wonderful times in life that I wish I could bottle up and keep, when I don’t want to think about it being over, and in those times I am living in the moment. But for most of my time, I am often worrying about what is coming next, or musing about something that has happened long ago, and so I miss right now.
Right now is a good time in my life. Everyone in my family is happy and healthy, I have a loving husband, special friends, a good job, a roof over my head. Do I sometimes get mad and in a bad mood and wish for things I don’t have? Yes. Do I worry over what the future holds, when our health will not be so good, when I will have to leave the home I love, old age and loneliness? Yes. But if I would take Solomon’s words to heart, I would know that life has its ebbs and flows, and that the bad times eventually give way to the good, with God’s help. I would realize that life is made up of the hard and the easy and that we need both for balance.
Shana and her daughter and the rest of Jim’s family are entering a time of weeping and mourning. They have a difficult and dark road ahead. They will always hurt over this. Always. But they also have times of laughing and dancing ahead. They will embrace and gather stones and sew and have a life without Jim in it. This will take time, maybe years, but the time of mourning will pass. As Christians, we have the assurance that we are not alone in our journey. And that fact gives me hope.