Today I am officiating at a funeral for a gentleman who, for thirty years, had abdominal cancer and chose to end his life this past week. The following is the latter half of his eulogy, which I will be delivering this afternoon:
H. also kept a Bible in which he highlighted and underlined many passages. One in particular that I noticed this past Saturday was from Psalm 90, verse 10: "The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong." I think H. was not feeling very strong of late. None of us truly knew how deep was his despair at his failing health and daily loss of control. For thirty years he carried the heavy burden of cancer within him. His dignity was important to him, as it would be to any of us. Whatever time was left to him may have felt more like a prison sentence, the prison being his body that was betraying him with each passing day.
But as the apostle Paul has assured us, in another passage that H. underlined, "Love never ends. Prophecies will come to an end, as will knowledge, for we know only in part and we prophesy only in part but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. ...For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."
We cannot begin to understand the reasons why H. did what he did. When we love, we do not see clearly; we see with the eyes of love. We overlook shortcomings or we expect a great deal of our beloved. We hope beyond what is realistic; we cut our losses; we would rather walk through the fire alone than ask those we love to walk through it with us. We see only in part, but God knows us through and through.
God knows H. and the pain he suffered. And there is nothing H. could do to separate himself from God's love. We can feel separate from God when we distance ourselves through sin and suffering. But God is always closer than breathing; no matter where we go, God is there. When we come to the end, God is with us still.
If the life of Jesus teaches us anything, we learn that healing and wholeness go hand in hand with forgiveness: "Rise and walk, your sins are forgiven." I don't know what exists beyond this life, but I hope in this: whatever peace or justice or comfort or healing or forgiveness or love that could not be achieved in this life, God will complete it. That's what grace is all about. Now we live in the partial; when the complete comes, all that is incomplete will be accomplished.
Thanks be to God for the love shared with us in the life of H., incomplete though it was, for he loved and lived well, and this world is the better for it. Amen.