Beauty in Ashes

Today I went to the funeral for a dear friend’s husband.  It was beautiful and poignant; I teared up several times.  Something else made me tear up, however, a moment of joy among the sadness, beauty amidst the ashes.

When I came in, the sanctuary was filling up fast (this man was well-loved and well-known).  I saw a seat for myself past a gentleman.  As I walked up to the row if pews, I saw a walker parked at the end, between his row and the next.  As I asked the gentleman, about 10 years older than myself, if I could scoot in there, it became evident it was his walker.  When more people came to fill in the extra space, he graciously, but with evident effort, slid down closer to me to let the others into the row.

The service started and we stood for the first hymn.  He rose slowly, painfully, to his feet.  I reached over and gave him a hand up.  I did not want to step on his dignity, but did not want to see him struggle, either, when it was needless.  When we sat back down, he moved with slow deliberation, obviously intent on the effort and keeping his balance.

I must admit I became a bit protective of my pew buddy.  I helped him when I could, taking care not to hover.  I retrieved fallen glasses, gave him a hand with the up and down movements, and shared a hymnal.

The time came for communion, and people started going forward, coming across each row of pews to the front of the church, then around to the other side to come back to their seats, making one large circle.  I was concerned about this gentleman and how he would be able to move enough for people to slide past, and the pain that might cause him.

What happened next was truly lovely, a real testament to human kindness.

Each person, whether headed to the front or re-entering the pew, took the long way around, thus not disturbing him.  It was so kindly done, so automatically so, that I teared up with the sheer beauty of it.  No looks of irritation; no rolled eyes.  Just service to a fellow human being.  Not even knowing this man, I wanted to thank them on his behalf…thank them for being Christlike.

Now, I know nothing about this man.  I don’t know how long he has been this way, how hard it has been on his self-esteem, or even his name.  But I know that Christ was served by simple acts of kindness, and that was beautiful to see…and to be a part of.

How often do we miss the opportunities to show love to a fellow human being?  How often do I?

I have had so many times in my life when I have been helped by the kindness of a stranger.  It was joyous to return the favor.  I hope it was for the others as well.

Just as the service ended, he leaned in to me a bit and thanked me sincerely for my assistance.  I really felt no thanks were necessary, and demurred slightly.

My sweet friend’s husband was a man who helped, who gave to others, and was gracious, always to me, and to my kids as well.  What a fitting tribute that kindness happened as we celebrated his entry into glory.

I pray that I can always remember the difference a small bit of kindness makes.

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:40

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