Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beauty for Ashes

What a wondrous thing it is to watch God transform something mundane and even ugly into something beautiful.

Ugly old caterpillar, earth-bound, feels the drive to wrap himself in a blanket one day. Changes he can't begin to fathom happen to him as he stays tightly nestled in there. Changes at the molecular level... as what he was literally liquefies and becomes something else that bears as much resemblance to his old self as a kite does to a running shoe. A kite can fly - and so can a butterfly.

A butterfly was hanging around the house of my brother ever since his death on Monday. Every time his son (21) would come out, it seemed, the beautiful little creature was there, perching in the lilac bush or flitting around trying to get some sweet out of the honeysuckle blooms.

A total of some 600 people or more filed into the funeral home yesterday, expressing their love and respect for a man who touched their lives by his intense love for God, his passion for music, and his burning desire to marry the two.

Today's service was such a sweet tribute to a man who touched so many lives by his being and his ministry. It was very hard to watch the video montage done by son-in-law Matt, not because it was sad, but because it was so full of joy and peace, and because everyone watching the video today knew from hindsight, that Skip would not survive after that ceremony for more than two hours. The obvious pride and joy on his face as he said, "Her mom and I do," giving away his baby to her new groom, was evident even through the oxygen mask he was wearing.

So many connections made during this past few days, hopefully permanent ones.

At the committal ceremony, which was at a cemetery not far from my mom's house, Pastor said he didn't often sing graveside, but he felt led to sing "Because He Lives" and wanted everyone there to join him. As our whole family joined in the familiar old song, a butterfly that looked very much like the one from Skip's house,came down seemingly from nowhere, swooped within a few millimeters of the casket, and headed for my mom, who was standing right beside me. It came within about 2 inches of her head and went on its way behind us, disappearing into the afternoon sky.

We stopped in at Mom's for an hour or so before we came back home. Honorary brother Dale dropped by with her car, which she had left at his house (her brother drove her back home from the church because Dale had to leave a bit early). We chatted for a little while until he had to leave, and beyond. Ginger snaps and tea. It brought back some gentle memories of tender times with family and friends around that table.

Someone said once that although God promises to give us beauty for ashes, we have to give Him the ashes. It's a straight trade. We can't hold onto the ashes and expect to get His beauty. We have to let go and give them to Him. I think a little part of that letting go happened over the last 72 hours.

For those who have prayed, who have called, emailed, sent flowers and/or donations, or come to show their support and love for Skip and for his family, we thank you for the love that we know is behind these actions. Sometimes the hardest thing to handle at times when grief is very fresh, is the kindness of those who really care. Yet it is so needed, so appreciated. We've been humbled greatly, and overwhelmed with gratitude for the outpouring of love we have experienced this week. Everything from a phone message to a hug, from an email from far away to a handshake and a smile. It all means something very special.

Best of all, relationships are mending. Bridges are being built. Walls are being torn down.
It's hard because it's in the midst of loss. But it's' good, because we are gaining so much more.

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