“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
Sunday, Jan 19th. Nearly 3 weeks into 2014. I’m really hoping that today is finally the start of the good, happy new year we’d been waiting for. I certainly hope so. As I mentioned in a past blog we’ve experienced 5 deaths in less than a month, three of them within the first week of January. I’m pleased to say that the last of the funerals was Saturday. Actually two of the funerals were on Saturday only a half hour apart. Raylene attended the services for our next door neighbor Dawn at Rose Hills and I attended the service for Jesse, the father of my compadre and close friend Steve. Jesse’s service was in every sense of the word a celebration, a true celebration of life! Steve’s eulogy for his father incredible! It was both touching and thought provoking, a fitting tribute and farewell to a man who lived life well.
On Friday Raylene and I attended my cousin Susie’s funeral and Thursday night we were at her rosary vigil. Like Jesse’s, her services were truly a celebration of life! In spite of the moving nature of the services I’m glad they are behind us. To say that we’re funeraled out would be putting it lightly. I hope and pray we never have a 3 day period like this ever again. It was both physically and mentally exhausting. And we were only attendees! You can imagine how the immediate family and those involved in the planning and implementation of the service and reception must have felt. Already dealing with grief and a sense of loss and still having to handle all the details, not an easy task.
Odd, but after all the beautiful words, prayers and reminiscing of the past three days I keep coming back to a story the deacon shared with us at Susie’s vigil service on Thursday night. He told of a man arriving at the Pearly Gates and being greeted by St. Peter who then proceeds to give the new arrival a tour of the place. Their first stop is hell and the man is surprised to see how beautiful it is. There is no fire and brimstone, screaming or burning souls as he expected to see, instead there is a lavish hall, beautifully adorned. Down the center of the hall is a table that stretches as far as his eyes can see. On the table are every type of food and delicacy imaginable and every type of drink. The man is confused and can’t quite comprehend how this could be hell.
He then notices that there is something unusual about the multitude of people seated at the table. At first glance they had appeared quite normal, but now he can see that they all have elongated forearms perhaps a foot or more longer than normal. When they reach for the food before them and try to greedily feed themselves they can not get the food to their mouths, try as they might, they simply can’t do it, which frustrates and angers them to no end. They are miserable and shout and scream in anguish. The man can’t bear to watch them any longer and asks St. Peter to take him out of there which he does immediately.
St Peter tells him that their next stop is Heaven. The man is surprised when St. Peter takes him into another grand, lavish hall exactly like the one in hell. It to is beautifully adorned and seems to go on forever. Running down the center of the hall is a table covered with food, drink and every delicacy imaginable. Then the man notices that the people around the table are exactly like those in hell with the same elongated forearms. But as he looks on he realizes that although heaven and hell appear the same, there are no screams of anguish, no wailing or tears. The people here are content. They are talking and laughing and having a good time. At first he is confused but as he watches he comes to understand why. For as these people reach for their favorite foods they don’t selfishly or greedily try to feed themselves, instead they reach out and graciously feed the person across from them. They are feeding each other! Caring for one another! In that moment the man is overcome with an overpowering sense of joy and is welcomed Home by St Peter.
What an incredible story! One that will stay with me until my dying day. What an incredible lesson! How beautiful it could be and one day will be, if we simply learn to put our selfish, greedy wants and needs aside and begin to care for one another, help each other, feed one another. Isn’t this the lesson we should all learn from our life journey? Isn’t this want God wants from us, for us? Isn’t this what Jesus meant when He told us to love one another?
How sad that it took the death of a loved one to reawaken such a vital truth for me. Had not my cousin died I would probably have never heard this story and been reminded of my true mission here on earth. We all know what is right and how we should live our lives, but sometimes we lose our way and get caught up in the grand, deceptive game of everyday living and forget about life. Sometimes we get hung up on things that don’t really mean shit, and forget about giving of ourselves. True happiness comes from within, it can’t be bought or bartered. The things we own don’t bring us happiness, we may think they do and they might just a little, but it doesn’t last. Believe me, that nice new car you drive, the big house on the hill or that fine jewelry will never satisfy your soul. When our journey comes to an end none of these material possessions will mean squat! All that will matter is the type of life you lived, your act of kindness, generosity and selflessness.
The Lord works in mysterious ways. Things happen for a reason. I truly believe God chose Thursday night and that particular deacon in training to share his story so that I could listen to its message not only with an open mind, but with my heart as well, so that I could be reminded of what really matters. An epiphany. Hopefully from this day forward I will strive to be a more compassionate person, kinder, more considerate and more giving. I want to be the man God expects me to be, the man I know I can be, the man I want to be.
Of course as I write this the little devil who resides within all of us keeps trying to distract me. I keep thinking of how much like a particular Saturday Night Live skit involving Steve Martin who is having an epiphany moment and talks about making changes, “I see it all now, I should do this… I should change that…. Perhaps I should do this, that and the other.” Then he pauses to reflect for a few moments, turns to the audience and says “Naaaaaahhhh…”
Distractions be damned. I will not say “naaaahhh.” I am going to make an honest effort at making some positive changes in my life. I pray that I’m successful. “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.”
Just a Thought,