I received a blessing yesterday morning as I sat for the second time in a week among family during a memorial/funeral service. The blessing was an analogy, and I liked it. Credit for this picture/analogy goes to longtime friend Mark Howell, pulpit minister at Sugar Grove Church of Christ in Houston. Mark studied accounting with Barry in the 70s, and we shared together our ministry with young people: Mark and Karen worked with the youth at then North Side Church of Christ here in Austin, and Barry and I worked with the youth at Round Rock Church of Christ. We saw each other regularly and have remained loosely connected through the years.
Standing on the beach, a man looked out to sea at just the right moment to catch sight of a tall ship, sitting only a few hundred yards offshore, her bow and stern equally visible as she seemed to rule the horizon of the setting sun. The sight took the man’s breath, so perfect was the canvas before him. Though her sails were at rest, he could see the crew scurrying about the deck, preparing to sail. For the moment, however, all was still. In an instant, he felt the moisture of the cool ocean breeze gust against his face, and at just that moment the sails caught and furled fully open. The stark white sails expanded against the burning sky, and the ship turned and began to drift out to sea.
The man stood silently, watching her dignity as she slipped away, slowly at first and then picking up speed. Seemingly, within moments he saw her reach the distant horizon, white sails like a small wispy cloud at the edge of the earth. Then she disappeared.
“She is gone,” he said.
As the words left his lips, however, he seemed to hear another voice from the other side, and that voice was calling expectantly: “Here she is! Do you see her? She's coming!”
She was not gone; she had merely gone from his sight.
I like this picture. The story reminded me of Phyllis, my kids’ adopted grandmother in San Antonio. When she learned of her lung cancer and received the poor prognosis that she would likely die within the year, she said to me: “I am not sad. As we live our lives, we say goodbye to one we love and then another. Soon we realize there are so many we love on the other side. Death will be a great reunion.”