Your life is in the people you touch

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"My dad and I had a bond," Luke said. He choked back tears as he spoke at the memorial service being held for his deceased father. His dad, Ken, had suffered long and hard with emphysema. Various family members recounted their memories of Ken as the photo presentation rolled at the front of the room. People kept arriving. Ken was an ordinary man who tried to make it through life the best way he knew how.

Like everyone does, he experienced ups and downs and joys and sorrows. It seemed he had just arrived at the point where he had wanted to be when his health began to fail.

He maintained a thriving business in which he took great satisfaction.

He felt he had finally made it. His children were grown and he had grandchildren, which were his pride and joy. He was an unassuming person who tried to help other people whenever he could. He was a jokester and a storyteller. In fact the family slide presentation was titled "Let Me Tell You a Story."

Ken especially liked teasing waitresses when he ate in various restaurants. They always seemed to derive fun from his humorous bantering. Ken never attempted to be or to act like something he wasn't -- exhibiting a modest demeanor, instead.

As Luke continued to reminisce about Ken, he made a statement that affected me in an extraordinary fashion. He said, "We're telling stories about dad's life. Well, his life is right here in this room. It's all you people sitting out there. You are what made up dad's life." Luke had remembered that his dad looked forward most to getting together with family and friends. He always tried to drive to his parents' house for holidays or for birthdays, weddings or any other occasion where everyone was coming together. He always took charge and tried to put other people first rather than talking about himself. He was extremely unpresumptuous about his affairs.

Luke recalled that Ken was always available when his sons or grandchildren needed him. Another employee of Ken's spoke, as well, and mentioned that Ken was always willing to help him when he needed it. He could scarcely speak with dry eyes. Although I doubt Ken would ever suspect that such a large amount of love and homage would be shown toward him, he would have been awesomely proud and touched by those who came to his service.

No mention was made at the memorial concerning what he did for a living, how much money he made or the kind of house he lived in. No material thing was brought up. Ken was someone who never thought of receiving acclaim, because he seemed to feel unworthy of attention.

Nevertheless, despite having no raving reviews, notoriety or fame, his most important contributions to life were evident in the faces and voices of those who attended. He never owned a large corporation or held a public office. You would never have noticed him as being particularly significant as he walked down the street; but he enjoyed being with his loved ones. He made no notable announcement when he arrived. Rather, he demonstrated a humble bearing.

One would think that a person who made little effort to draw attention to himself would fail to be noticed, thought about or remembered. In fact I believe Ken wondered how much he was really loved. Yet his son Luke painted a dramatically opposite picture of Ken. Those in that room that morning were proof that, Ken was definitely noticed, thought about, remembered, and most importantly, he was loved.

Ken modeled to others that, indeed, "Love is patient and kind; not jealous or conceited or proud" and that "Love is eternal." Ken's life was in that room Corinthians 13:4, 7.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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