The Lord blesses a people, with someone who just seems to know the right thing to do all the time. Occasionally, God is good enough to send us someone, and shape them, to be a kind of guiding light to the rest of us. We often take them for granted, walking in the illumination of their God-reflection. Until they are gone.
I was driving to work this morning, and cycled through the radio stations. One of my local stations was broadcasting the funeral of Billy Graham. I could hear the bagpipes playing, and the announcer spoke of the body being moved by procession. They were playing Amazing Grace. I imagined the group of people standing behind the casket as it moved to the final resting place. I took off my hat, there in my car. One of those mighty titans of truth being laid to rest, surely translated to walk in the land of the truly living.
We have lost something, O Lord. Don’t leave us in the darkness.
Just a few months ago, a mighty hero in my life was laid to rest as well. I had the pleasure of playing a couple of songs on my guitar at the funeral. Jim Eller was on of those titans of truth. He walked with humility, and always was there to pray for me, for my family, and remind us of how to follow God. He was half blind, and physically unsteady, there in the last few months. But, I couldn’t help but noticed that he was never more clear eyed, and spiritually solid. His greatest concern was for his wife, grown children, and growing grandchildren. He wanted them to follow in the way that he had been paving his whole life. When we did lay him to rest, I felt like there was a real hole in our community.
We lost something, O Lord. Don’t leave us in the darkness.
My own Grandpa, Jay Denton Palmer, was one of those too. We lost him about six years ago. I named my oldest boy after him. I’m so sorry that my kids will never know him like I did. I loved him as only a grandson can. I know that he believed in me, cherished to see me grow up. He was proud of me. In the way that a proud grandparent can, he respected me. And, I respected him. He ran track in college with some of the legends of the Pacific Northwest, like Ben Moring and Eugene Peterson. He was a Gideon, believing that the Bible was powerful enough to be set into a stranger’s hands and left to work. When he went to be with Jesus, I felt robbed. Even now, I wonder what he would say if he could see what we are up to now; and wonder what kind of wise words he would offer. He was a good man, and we are the poorer for having to let him go.
But, that is the way of things. I feel like there is a grainy color polaroid, of all those who I grew up with. Many of them were people to be in awe of. People to listen to. People to emulate. People to love and respect. They reflected God’s radiance, it seemed. And one by one, their faces are being rubbed out of the picture, never totally removed, but somehow eerily absent. Oh, how the people next to them in the picture grimace at the loss.
Sitting in a coffee shop, I ran into some old friends. Mrs. Murray had lost her husband to cancer a few years ago. Her friends, the Stiltzes, had lost a son to an IED. All three of them having coffee. I MEPS’d in with their son, so many years ago. I’ve memories of us running at the park, in the early morning Spokane hours, trying to get in shape for basic training. I came home. He didn’t. We hugged and caught up. Just before leaving, Mrs. Murray said to me that we are about to lose Marla. My heart caught in my throat.
Marla is one more of those titans of truth. She worked at the church I went to as a boy. She taught us to sing, and had the job of putting on the church musical productions. I don’t know for sure, but I think she loved it. She always came off that way. Marla never stopped being the kind of person you wanted to run into on a hard day. She just reflects that light in a way you can’t explain, but you know when you are in the presence of it.
What are we going to do? Lord, we’re losing so many of our pillars. Don’t leave us in the darkness. Sometimes it feels like our country has its hands around its own throat, and it is squeezing. Polarizing, punditry, anger, and entrenched shouting has become our way of life. Shooting people just to shoot them. Then, accusing and crying about how we were right all along. Squeezing. So much darkness.
Lord! Don’t You leave us alone! Raise up the Elijah and Elisha, the Samuel, the David, the Isaiah, the John, and the Jesus. Send us leaders who know the way, who know the truth, and who lead in the way of life.