Ann and I just returned from attending the funeral of a wonderful, wonderful lady whom I have known for at least 35 years.
From the first encounter, it was obvious that this person was extraordinary. She didn’t just speak, she effused energy and enthusiasm.
I remember the story she shared with us at church about an experience she had walking through a cemetery. As she shared, I could tell that many people were feeling uncomfortable and raising their eyebrows. It was obvious by the look on their faces that they weren’t sure that this was appropriate.
But I was only about 10, so I wasn’t so concerned with what was and what wasn’t appropriate. I was able to just listen to her as she poured out her feelings.
I learned that she would go to the cemetery when she was discouraged and quietly walk among the headstones, stopping to read each one as she passed it. Soon she would find herself thinking about each individual person. She imagined that they must have been kind and loving because of the phrases that had been etched in stone about them.
After years of this, she had come to feel that she knew them. They became friends and examples. She could feel love and gratitude for the contribution they had made to their families, to their communities, and by extension, to the world.
And buoyed up, she could clear her mind of discouragement and was ready to again stand tall, choosing to continue with the same type of life, one that would make a difference.
And she did.
This wonderful, bright, happy, optimistic spirit was housed in a body that was stricken with multiple sclerosis. She had it for more than 40 years, so I never knew her without it. It was revelatory to me to look at pictures of her today in a cheerleading uniform, full of free movement and all the invincibility of youth.
But I realized that it was a perfect picture of her, for she had been cheering on those around her, everyone she met, her entire life. When I looked at her outstretched arms and immediately recognized the selfless expression on her face – she was just experiencing the joy of what the others were doing – I felt that was the Nancy I had always known.
Will always know.
Easter morning comes each year to quietly remind us of exactly that fact. It is not “Nancy was…”; it’s “Nancy is.”
This wonderful, sacred time is not so much a remembrance of the reality of death, as it is a bright, energetic, optimistic celebration of life.
It takes away the worry and panic about the day when others may reflect that “I was…” and gives me permission to find joy that “I am.”
“I am”, right now.
So are you.
Regardless of what any of us may profess from a pulpit or share passionately through expressed word, the truth is that we give every day of our lives for what we actually and honestly believe.
Our actions boldly declare where our thoughts and hearts lie.
What will I do today that will show what I truly believe?
What will you?
Will we slow down enough to really hear what someone says? To clearly see the hope in their eyes as they dare to express, dare to dream, dare to do? Will we cheer them on?
Life is eternal and precious. After our experiences here we will go on. I’m sure that there are many different and wonderful things that we can go on to, but the real point is that we will go on.
We will continue.
So it’s time to start now to do the things that we would like to be in a position to keep doing.
The final speaker at the funeral today painted a wonderful scene that each of us immediately saw as clear and true. He helped us to see the bright, energetic, optimistic Nancy continuing on. I closed my eyes and saw her in her cheerleading uniform. Her jumps were high and her movements were strong as she glowed, awash in the joy of life.
The love that was at times contained by the confines of her bedridden body is now shining free and pure, lifting all around her. Perhaps in this lifetime she was slowed down by physical limitations; but in that housing her spirit soared and grew and she learned to fly.
I hope that the next generation will take the time to walk through the cemetery and stop to read Nancy’s headstone. I hope they will take the time to think, and listen, and feel, and get to know her as a friend and an example.
And I hope that each of us will find the way to not only move haltingly forward, but in our own way to learn how to fly.