Passing...

This past week, my husband and I attended a funeral.

Back-story: The foundation that we serve, hired an employee to work as a gardener in November 2014.  He has been a good employee and I have spoken to him casually each day….”Como esta usted?”(How are you?),“Como esta tu familia?”(How is your family?), etc…..nothing too deep as my Spanish is growing but limited and I often struggle to understand the responses.  So these questions although asked with sincerity are just a passing event each day.

Until early August, when in response to “How is your family?” this worker begins to tell of his father’s illness. I understand him to say that his father has a tumor in his throat that is growing to the point that he is having trouble breathing and eating.  He is 76 years old and they have no money to take him to the doctor.

Now what?  OK, my question in passing has given me information for which I am now responsible.  My heart was burdened thinking that his father will die if no treatment is rendered.  After talking it over with my husband, we decide to give him the money needed to take his father to the doctor.  Fast forward two weeks and we have learned his father has an adenoidal tumor that is possibly cancerous and growing rapidly. After some discussion with the help of a translator, we learn that the father does want to seek medical treatment even surgery if needed.  So we negotiate a loan for him to go to a specialist in the capital city.  They go and on the day of the scheduled biopsy, his father has a heart attack; receives a tracheostomy and a tube for feeding.  Our worker is with his father for a week; is relieved by his sister who is there for a week; and then returns to be with his father as they await decisions from the attending doctors. Two days later, the doctors tell our worker that his father is too weak and the tumor too big to precede with surgery and they recommend that he take him home.  Which he does, and shortly after getting his father settled in his own bed, he dies.

Thus we find ourselves attending the funeral out of respect and care for our worker. I had had the opportunity to ask the worker if his father knew Jesus. He told me that his father had grown up Catholic but that a preacher had visited him in the hospital and had led his father in a prayer to receive Jesus. We discussed the peace and joy of this knowledge. Not knowing his father would die 10 days later.  There was no service at a church so we met with the family and friends at the cemetery.  The coffin was carried to this awaiting tomb and the gathering of people wept, wailed, and comforted one another.  Deep in my heart, I wanted to cry out, “Please someone offer a prayer.” but of course, I didn’t.  We stood there respectfully observing the continued grief of those gathered.  I was moved to seek out our worker and his mother so I approached him and ask him to show me to his mother.  He asked me if I wanted to view his father, as there was a window for viewing in the coffin.  I affirmed that I did and thus approached the coffin and while holding the his hand and that of his mother, I feel the Lord’s Spirit instructing me to offer a prayer…..but I am not bilingual, Lord. I will get it all wrong and confused. To which I hear,

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

So I asked them if I could pray and with their permission, I offered a prayer in broken Spanish but with a honest heart asking God to come and offer comfort, thanking Jesus for His salvation and the assurance of being with Him in heaven for eternity.  I am not sure what else I prayed. I know my verb tenses were wrong, that I mutilated their language but at least the stones did not have to cry out because in this time of his father’s passing, God enabled me to speak of His comfort, His presence in our lives, His plan of salvation and His promise of eternal life.

Each day we are just passing through, rubbing shoulders with others in our daily activities, asking casual questions, expecting casual responses until that one time when the response is not casual but a heart cry of sorrow, pain, illness, financial loss, divorce, death - all manner of heart ache.  As a follower of Jesus, how do we respond?  What would He have us do?  It is an individual question and the answer may look different for each circumstance but I believe Jesus wants us to represent Him, His love and His offering of Himself.

This morning, as every Sunday morning, my husband and I volunteered with a local children’s program. We ‘teach’ the <5 year olds with the help of a Honduran youth.  Today in the biggest group ever (42), one young lad who was a first timer was having trouble keeping his hands to himself and after repeated admonitions, I took his hand to separate him from the other lad he was bothering.  He flung himself on the ground and started crying.  As I picked him up, he began to kick at me.  I held him tight, carried him away from the group and whispered in his ear, “ Yo amo usted…I love you. Jesus loves you. God loves you. Your mama loves you. Your papa loves you. Do you have brothers and sisters? They love you too. You are loved.”  During this time of whispering, he quieted down and cried on my shoulder. After a few moments of my mantra and when he had quieted down, I asked him if he wanted to return to the group.  Nodding his head, ‘yes’, and he calmly returned to his seat. 

Did he think I would harm him? Is that why he reacted the way he did?  I do not know but what I do know is that as I passed through the life of this small child, I had an opportunity; and I rejoice that the Holy Spirit in me (not me) was able to show him the love of Jesus.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5: 13-15

Oh, Lord, May all who pass me see more of Jesus and less of me through your enabling Spirit. Amen y amen.