A month ago I took a trip to Wesley, Iowa…my hometown. It’s not a big spot in the road. The population is close to 400, down from the 600 level when I lived there forty years ago. But size isn’t important. It’s the people that make a place special.
Last month I shared a few stories about my friend, Toots Youngwirth, a wonderful lady who departed for heaven on November 13th. It was an honor to attend a celebration of her life.
But why bring up the topic of death in December? It’s because I discovered that beginnings and endings of life have a lot in common. In fact, they often overlap each other. In the case of Toots, a great granddaughter was born two days before she died, and her death came the same day as her youngest daughter’s wedding anniversary.
The church parking lot was packed with cars sprawling in every direction during the visitation. I found a place in the long line of people who wanted to affirm Toot’s life. The sounds of laughter and talking were everywhere, especially around the family members. I said to their son, Tom, “The Youngwirths have built an empire in Wesley, and it’s a given that the king and queen should reign forever.” This empire came from sharing love and compassion with the whole town.
The actual service was filled with scripture about Christ’s burial, resurrection and the promise of new life with Him. Near the end, the choir sang the song, “I Believe” during communion. When they came to the phrase, “every time I hear a newborn baby cry”, an infant began (almost on cue) to wail and kept going until the end of the song. No sounds of silence there.
Afterwards I went to the dinner at Wesley’s Community Center. So many personal touches provided a warm welcome. The paper placemats were a drawing of St. Joseph’s Church done by Dawn, Toot’s daughter. A little menu attached to each placemat read “My Funeral Dinner” – Catered by Jumbo (her nephew). Scalloped potatoes/lots of ham, Cole slaw (with Wesley Legion dressing), Corn, Homemade Bread (made by Jumbo), Bars, Coffee and Milk. It was so like Toots, who cared for every detail.
There was even a drawing at the dinner! When Johnny and the family arrived from the cemetery, they told us the wrapped boxes were crafts Toots had made, and they wanted to give them away. The glory of Toots, the person, was still being shared with all her friends and family.
So what is glory? It’s the amazing essence of a person’s life. Sometimes it gets noticed while the person is alive. Other times we stop and ponder after it’s gone.
In the middle of a dirt-caked stable, God sent fresh life. Jesus was filled with the glory of the Father. Like any good mother, Mary had to wonder about this birthing area. Yes, it was greatly lacking in warmth and ambience, but it was the perfect backdrop for sinners….one that anyone trapped in darkness could relate to.
When sin’s ugliness is exposed, we long for light. When the darkness finally disappears and loneliness is erased, we realize what’s been missing. It began in a tiny package.
Every Christmas I hear a newborn baby’s cry pierce the night. The seeds of eternal life. Light swallows up the darkness, and all is well. That’s what glory looks like to me.
|Photo courtesy of MotionWorship.com|