The last place I would ever expect to get spiritual inspiration is from my morning newspaper, but that’s what happened today.
I don’t subscribe to the local rag, but I still occasionally like to read it when I can, usually at the library or restaurant. There is something about the feel of crinkly newsprint between your fingertips.
So this chilly weekend morn I opened up the Star Press, anticipating the normal fare of meth busts, break-ins, and high school sports news. After quickly reviewing an article about the financially strapped school district, I somehow found myself on the obituary page. It was here that the uplifting of my morale began.
I suppose anyone reading this might wonder why I was reading an obit. I don’t have an answer for that except perhaps it is because I am getting older and have might have some latent prurient interest in the death of people near my age. I am finding that those who are passing on these days aren’t necessarily old age pensioners. The statistics are beyond me at the moment, but I would not be surprised if the life expectancy in America has declined. Our country’s infrastructure isn’t the only thing on the skids. Personal frames don’t seem to be too healthy either.
I think what attracted me to the death notice was not only the photo of a vibrant looking woman, but also the lead. It might be the most unique opening to an obituary I have ever read. The text revealed that this lady with the gleaming eyes had been the “awesome” mother of eight, grandmother of seven and the wife of a minister. More touching was the seemingly odd statement which noted that she had “won” her battle with a fatal disease and “crossed the finish line into eternal life.”
I have never read an obituary which referred to someone’s death as a “win”. However, if you believe like I do (and obviously like the author of the obit, the woman herself and her relations do as well) the Bible, the comment makes a whole lot of sense. The deceased lady is described as a “dedicated follower of Christ.” Therefore, she believed that she would follow Jesus, who the Apostle Paul described as the “firstfruits” of the men and women who are to be raised to eternal life after death. The apostle likened life to a race at times. In the same passage, he referred to the truth of the following saying:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
From the brief summary of her life, it is clear this woman committed herself to sharing her belief in the efficacy of the work of Christ to others around the world. She went to 41 countries on seven continents to bring the hope of immortality and a heaven free from the sin of this world to others. The lady seems to have been a normal, average person with a big heart who accomplished a lot in her less than five decades on this planet.
Having had my heart warmed and challenged by her story, I turned to an editorial by the president of a local food bank. Entitled “You Can be Seven Years Old and Make a Difference”, the piece discussed a little girl who raised funds for food for poor children by drawing and selling her work on Facebook. The child had noticed the numerous kids in her school who got their main source of nutrition from school lunches and she decided to help them. According to the author, in two and a half weeks of work the young lady had raised enough funds to provide a meal to 3,200 people in need.
The charity’s president writes of the lesson learned. “We all have the ability to accomplish much more than we think we are capable of doing.”
Then there was the column by a former hospital chaplain. This man gave an account of his work in a pediatric ward. After beginning with the upbeat story of his meeting with a playful five year old girl ready to discharged, the pastor’s narrative became more serious. He related his encounter with the Mom of a 13 year old boy in intensive care. The mother explained that her son’s cancer had returned.
While there the child’s oxygen level decreased dangerously, setting off alarms. The chaplain described what happened next.
“Mom was the wife of a military officer, and she found her voice by issuing an urgent motherly command. ‘Breathe. Breathe. Take a deep breath.’ Her son followed the orders and we watched his chest rise and fall a few times.”
The hospital chaplain added that the mother told the sick boy to “take one more” even though his oxygen levels had come back to normal. She then “placed an approving hand” on his forehead and said,”There. That’s perfect. Just perfect.”
Prior to entering the hospital, the pastor had thought his day was perfect because it was sunny and clear and he had an earworm of a pop tune circulating through his head. Observing the mother, the pop tune was replaced by the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy.” His idea of a perfect day had been changed dramatically.
“A perfect day is not what happens around you,” he writes. ” It’s what happens within you.
If you spend your days loving someone and being loved, then no matter how difficult the circumstances, the day will always be a perfect day.”
I was even energized by the comics.
Even the most mundane day can be turned into inspiration. The local paper did that for me today.