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Monday, March 30, 2009

Smiles Breaking Through Tears

Smiles Breaking Through Tears

Dying is a gradual diminishing and final vanishing over the horizon of life. When we watch a sailboat leaving port and moving toward the horizon, it becomes smaller and smaller until we can no longer see it. But we must trust that someone is standing on a faraway shore seeing that same sailboat become larger and larger until it reaches its new harbor. Death is a painful loss. When we return to our homes after a burial, our hearts are in grief. But when we think about the One standing at the other shore eagerly waiting to welcome our beloved friend into a new home, a smile can break through our tears.

This was the meditation from Henri today. It couldn't have been more appropriate. I had the incredible privilege of being able to attend the Memorial Service for a colleague in Student Venture, Shawn Basone, who at 42, went to be with Jesus after a long battle with cancer. Although, I sort of "missed" Shawn in Student Venture and never was able to meet her--her life has touched me in so many ways.

First, she began her ministry with Student Venture in my home area at a nearby school. As Jared and I were raising support we met people who knew her and now have some shared supporters of our ministries. We heard of her diagnosis with cancer, but she was in a type of remission when we first heard about her--then, about 5 years? ago it came back and had gone to her bones.

At a Fall Retreat with Student Venture we did a video call with Shawn and I cried so hard...her courage reminded me so quickly of my mom and that in her pain and the reality of a terminal disease she actually shone the brightest. She said over and over again in the last months of her life how she just wanted us all to know, "This is real. Jesus is real." I know if any of you had the chance even to witness a little bit of her pure, deep love for Jesus, a "child-like faith" as someone said today, you would be so blessed.

Needless to say, there was not a dry eye at her service...I wasn't sure if I should/would go and then just really believed it would bless me to be there and so I went. I was reminded of so precious reality, is that the tears we weep for a priceless life lost, temporarily, to us, are some of the most profound and precious in the ocean of tears. In our sadness, grief and pain (as Nouwen says above) we are simultaneously met with the reality of our faith...the promise and command that we "do not grieve as those who have no hope". That this loved one is free from all pain, sadness, tears...and face-to-face with Jesus. This is a particularly sweet reminder to me in the beginning of a season (leading to and through May) which is often emotional with the coming of Mother's Day, my birthday and the anniversary of my mother's homegoing.

Shawn's husband, Jeff, was at the service and their story and journey is so priceless it outshines any Hollywood epic, because of the glory of God amidst their love. Shawn had long prayed for her husband and God waited. In her late thirties, after finding the cancer was back and in her bones, she continued to pray for a husband and one who could walk this journey--the rest of her life--with her. God brought Jeff...who met her knowing that she would die eventually from this disease, but fell quickly for her, seeing her love for Jesus, and hearing from the Lord that she was to be his wife. They had 4 and a half years of marriage and I can't help but believe that for all of it's profound beauty, grace and a commitment that only the rare, indeed, would may as well have been 400 years for the weight of their love and what they carried. So impactful, as I drove home, I wept inside for all of the little ways I don't appreciate each day with my own beloved husband...

Most of all, however, Shawn's greatest desire is that through her story, people would come to know Jesus and that those of us who do would waste not one opportunity to share His love and extend His gospel. Jeff shared of seeing her share Jesus in airports, doctor's offices and with the hospice nurses who came to her ceaselessly out of her love for Jesus to the very end. I am so challenged and I want this life--that I know only a little more than you--to impact us all, lighting a fire within us to be about nothing if we are not about sharing Jesus...

Life is too short and eternity is too long to live any other way...dear ones who read this, I pray you are touched, encouraged and yes, challenged...

Keep the faith!

(p.s. here is a link to a guest book of many who share about Shawn's life, if you would like to read more.)


Staci L. Photography said...

What a beautiful story, Abby! Very inspirational and such an awesome reminder that Jesus is real. This IS real. :-) Thank you for sharing this!

Amy said...

hey abby, thank you for sharing this story. i especially like the picture of death/homecoming. i didn't realize your mom passed. i'm sorry to hear that. my mom was just diagnosed with colon cancer that's spread to her liver and lung. we don't know her prognosis yet b/c she hasn't been to the oncologist yet. it's been quite the roller coaster, but we know that GOD is bigger than all of this and is in control of everything. sorry to ramble. congrats on baby #2! :)